February 17, 2007

What I want to do during my volunteering

Next week I am about to start volunteering at Lyngblomsten Old Person's home. I have no idea what to expect from the resident that I will be working with in helping her do activities and pass time but I do have a lot of goals. I guess I want to volunteer here to understand what aging in life is about. The possibility of dying of old age is high and I do not understand it. Why does life make us lose our abilities to the point where we are immobile, paralyzed, or inept to do common activities. Is it to remind us young people to take care of our bodies or else? or is it merely a reality and phase that all of us go through. I find that most of us view old people as "the others." It is always easier to look at someone who really requires your help and company when we do not want to as someone of less importance. This mindset keeps us free from guilt and any sentiment of obligation or responsibility.

I had this mindset growing up. I always neglected and hesitated being with older people especially my grandparents who died at age 78 and 80. I always assumed they were lazy and immobile by life style choices. While indeed several of my reasonings were true none of them justified why I ignored them. Who says I won't be that way?

So what better way to ammend this the best way possible and learn about the end phase of life? Why not get to know these elderly residents. They're full of knowledge and experiences. While they're less mobile they're most likely wiser.

I hope to get to know my resident and find out who she is and what she has gone through. I was told that she is very enegetic and sometimes too energetic for her age. I already have respect for her. THe fact that her mind wants to live regardless of what her body tells her. She still keeps her wits and knowledge with cards and sometimes crossword puzzles. I guess she is very friendly and that I am very fortunate to have her as my "volunteer friend." I am very excited about this volunterring partnership and expect to make the best out of it and most importantly learn a whole great deal.

February 13, 2007

Working - Studs Terkel: The Parking

Upon reading Works by Studs Terkel I was drawn and interested by the interview by Alfred Pommier, the parking lot attendant. His job is so simple- simply take a car and park it or drive people around. Anyone could do that job one would think. No one however, could do it everyday for over thirty years and still love it. I do not know anyone that would be able to hold the spirit to be happy with his job, not be angry at the world, and go to work doing his best. It reminds me of the quote from John F. Kennedy "Ask what you can do for your country." For me, someone who is able to have the heart of life in his work to me is a hero. This person is someone I look up to. I want to be able to wake up everyday and smile that I am able to live the day because in one perspective - and only just one persepective is required - I live a great beautiful life. I want to be able to walk into work with a positive attitude and respect everyone around me because that in reality is the best thing you can do in any situation.

Furthermore Pommier loves to daydream. He loves to imagine driving the fancy automobiles that he picks up and live a glamorous life of a wealthy successful business man. Alfred does not life in this realm of fantasy however, he simply goes back to his lfie and accepts how everything is. We see people who live in mansions complain that they can buy a new car, get a massage, have the maid clean up their own mess. It is a paradox that we have someone who has nothing compared to wealthy people has the authentic wealth of life that is happiness.

Studs Terkel's interviews with ordinary people that I have never really considered important nor significant in society gave me a reality check. If people who have the simplest and most menial of jobs can be satisfied with the world and have the sanity to continue to love than anyone else, especially those who are born privelaged, have the obligation and power to do so as well.

Orientation at Lyngblomsten

On my way to my orientation to Lyngblomsten - an old person home care center in St. Paul - I thought I was going to walk into a 2.5 hour full of boring facts and tips that I probably already knew. To my surprise, fortunately, it was not this what so ever.

The first excercise we did was simulating conditions people have upon aging. For example, we put on gloves with cotten balls on the end of the finger tips. Some elderly people lose the hard fat on the tips of their fingers and loss of senses in the nerves to use their hands. I could not do anything with the loss of control of finger tips in my hands. I felt as if I didn't even have any. Another example were glasses with black spots in the center of the lenses showing how some old people actually have a hold in the middle of their sight or have extreme blurred vision that even presecription glasses cannot fully reverse the effects.

When did aging become so real? Being young is easy. We get to wake up and do whatever we want when we want. I never really thought of aging. I have at thought what it would be like to be living my last hour on earth or my last day, week, etc. But never the process of aging. Can we prevent these harsh conditions? Is it possible to live a life where we can be mobile at least partially till the day we die? Honestly, I would rather die young then live to a point of 10 years in my life where I cannot do anything.

Meeting some of the old people there was reassuring though. While they weren't with their loved ones and families and friends anymore they still had each other, the volunteers, and the staff. They were happy. I felt as if my presence was only the beginning of what I could do for them. But what was even stronger was the feeling that I was going to be impressed the most. I always thought of old people as kind of the "others." I never actually realized that old people have already had a lifetime full of experience, stories, love, hate, sadness, and joy. They were before me and now I take after them. I realized why would anyone not want to get to know them. Would they not have the best advice and words of wisdom for me?

Where I'm Applying and Why

I'm applying to volunteer at the old persons home in St. Paul. In my family we are taught since the day we're born that the old care for the young and the young take care of the old in the end. Today though I see so many families shipping off their parents into homes alone. Old people are people. They are filled with history, wisdom and love. If no one is there for them to talk to them, to live with them. Why would they be active and alive? I feel that if we try our best to help old people in their final years here, they can at least leave with a peace of mind that someone in this world will love them until their final days. I don't want to die in a bed in some institution. I want to be with people. I know I'll become senile, crazy, hell inept. But that's life. Also, we are young and have so many potential years ahead of us. What better way to prepare for our future then to meet people who have lived a lifetime already. I want to know the perspective of someone who has already "seen it all."

The second place I'm applying to is the Simpson Homeless shelther. All my life I've always had a place to sleep in. A roof over my head. Someone was always there to take care of me. The reality is, this is a foreign concept for some. Some people struggle day to day finding somewhere to sleep. In Minnesota, shelther is not an option. Our winters will kill you if you don't have a place to sleep in. I want to be part of this solution. I don't want to walk away not contributing to this cause. I want to find out why some people can't find places to sleep in. I want to educate myself in a world I haven't lived in.

What Is Service To Me?

My favorite quote that I've seen that in my opinon bests articulates the purpose of service is by Marian Wright Edelman,

"Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."

We were all born the way we were born. It is not our decision where we get to be born, who are our parents, what our race, gender, sexuality, appearance, and social status might be. It is in our choice however, how we want to conduct our lives. Do we want to live it for ourselves? Or for the benfit of future generations?

Service is a great experience. Yes there is the obvious benefit of someone receiving food on a tray, being helped into a shelther, learning the English language to become a citizen. The best part however is the personal experience. When we take the time to work with someone because we are bound to the same cause, we begin to open our eyes to other worlds, other lives, other stories. We educate ourselves. Service is not about being privelaged and bestowing that privelage onto those who you may think live incomplete lives. Service is about cooperation, and collaboration with others that share a similar idea and goal for the betterment of the world whether it is helping a child feel safe, or building a home for a family who have lost theirs due to a storm. Service is what we are as humans; it is a social aspect that each person is able to do.

Everyone benefits from service.