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Community Service – Giving Back

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.  ~Mother Teresa

Kyle with his Youth Group leader Mrs. Milko at a senior care center 12/16/12

This year Kyle was old enough to join our church’s youth group.  They accept students who are in the sixth grade and Kyle will be able to participate until he graduates high school.  The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia youth group also accepts anyone meeting that criteria, students don’t necessary have to go to our church to join.  It seems like such a large span of ages, but I think it’s good experience for all parties, having such an eclectic group.  They are a great group and I highly recommend any child joining.

The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia youth group is well organized and pretty involved in the community.  Every year they elect their officers and vote on the activities they want to accomplish during the school year.  Yes!  The students make the suggestions on the community service work, the fundraisers and the fun activities they want to participate in.  The students are also the ones who vote on which suggestion from each of the categories they want to accomplish throughout the year, guided by their fearless leaders Mrs. Milko and Miss Janik.  Structuring the group this way, really truly makes it their own.  The young adults are held accountable and learn responsibility.

This past Sunday, the youth group went to a senior living center nearby and passed out ornaments and sang Christmas carols.  I know Kyle’s visited a similar facility in the past because of my grandma, but I don’t think Kyle really paid much attention to all the different types of elderly people and really saw them.  The first floor contained the seniors who needed consistent attention and care, nothing out of the ordinary for Kyle.  However, the top floor was slightly different.  The upper level was a secure section where they housed the mentally handicapped.  The assortment of individuals with varying degrees of sickness, was a whole new world for Kyle, and I’m glad he had the opportunity to experience it.  My goal was always to have Kyle see the world and experience everything.  This is part of it, it might not be the glamorous side of life, but it is reality.

The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group 12/16/12

Besides being a little bit intimidating, the visit went every well.  It seemed like our presence was appreciated by those it was meant to benefit.  Our nurse tour guide, if you will, was great with the students!  After all the gift giving and the Christmas songs where sang, the nurse gathered the students together to tell them about the residence.  She wanted to let the youth group know that their efforts are recognized and their actions are more valuable than they realize.  Not naming any patients by name, the nurse gave broad stroke statements to drive several points home.

She (I wish I knew her name) mentioned that some of the elderly have no families and some have no one in their lives, except the caretakers.  She stressed how important it is to bring Christmas to them and how much it means to the recipient.  The upper level residence, those who have mental illnesses, were addressed to bring a strong message to the forefront.  She brought to light the fact that a majority of the patients upstairs where placed there due to drug usage and abuse.  Driving the point even further, she threw out a few numbers, the age ranges of the upper level residence, and they weren’t all elderly.  Surprisingly, she had a patient who was in his/her late twenties at one point.  Completely sad, especially when it’s unavoidable.  As the youth group and nearby adults were shocked over hearing this information and while they were pondering it, I discretely leaned toward Kyle and sternly whispered, “If I ever catch you trying drugs or cigarettes or hear of it, I will beat the crap out of you and put you in here permanently!”  He gave me a shaky ornery grin, knowing I might have sounded light about the comment, but meant the threat to its fullest extent.

As of now in life, Kyle hates needles.  He gets seriously ill  just from the shear sight of them and he hates to break rules.  So far so good.  Not to mention Kyle hates cigarettes!  That’s my man!  Like the nurse, I take ever opportunity to help drive home messages too.

When Kyle and I were leaving, I gave him a little inside, on the history our family has with that particular senior care center.  Kyle likes to hear these stories of our past and knowing he is indirectly apart of it.

Mom volunteered there in high school, reading books to the elderly.  I’m not sure how that came about, but it was a perfect job for her, for someone who loved to read.  I’m sure she was animated with her narration of the novels, just as I get when reading to Kyle, well maybe not that extreme.  When mom talks about those days it is with delight.  I think she really enjoyed reading and spending time with the seniors.

When Father Alred would administer mass to the sick and anoint the sick, the alter boys would assist him.  Being an alter boy, Ryan would volunteer when needed.  He did that all through elementary school.

Kyle snagging a cookie after passing out Christmas ornaments & singing Christmas carols to the elderly for his youth group. 12/16/12

Although Ryan’s volunteer days didn’t end there.  He also worked at this senior care center for a few months when he got in trouble in high school.  Ryan, who was really a good kid, but just did stupid stuff, was busted skipping school and drinking on school property.  Only my brother!  As punishment, besides the fines he had to pay and loosing his drivers license for a year, he had to do community service work.  Yes!  For an entire year, I had to cart his butt around everywhere, back and forth to work, school, you name it.  As part of the court order, he had to do so much community service time.  The judge was going to have Ryan pick up litter along side the highway.  That’s what they all thought, until mom interjected and requested he work in the senior care center.  Mom knew Ryan didn’t care about doing manual labor, but working with elderly people was a different story.  She also thought besides helping those who really need it, this activity would leave a lasting impression on Ryan, driving her point home.  I guess I know where I get it!

It did!  It even made an impression on me.  When I heard about mom’s suggestion, I thought “O crap, Ryan’s in for it!”  Ryan would come home and tell me all about the old people who would call him “sonny” and some of the things they said to him were hilarious!  He always had a story to two to tell me about this patient who would chase Ryan around in his wheelchair!  Why?  I have no idea and neither did Ryan, but he said sometimes he was quick!  A majority of the stories were funny!  We would roll around laughing.  The other stories just plain grossed me out.  Those usually involved exactly what you’d expect, the daily activities of cleaning bed pans etc.  At one point I said to Ryan, “Boy you made mom mad!”  He just shot me his ornery grin and a look of ‘Don’t I know it!’

Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group – passing out ornaments & singing Christmas carols to the elderly 12/16/12

While attending Sacred Heart School, Nicole and I would participate with our classes and sing Christmas carols to the elderly.  In fact, the entire school would sing through the halls, bringing Christmas cheer and a freshness to the otherwise mundane environment.  At the time, I didn’t realize what we meant to the patients and the caretakers.  I actually never thought about it until Kyle’s excursion.

All of our lives, we have been raised to volunteer and give back to the community, one way or another.  When I was in elementary school, all the students were required to work the church picnic every August.  We had to sign up for our booth and our shift, and we were responsible for being present and covering all open shifts.  Keep in mind, we were young kids who were responsible for the money being exchanged and stocking the booth of all the goods or administering to the game provided.  Granted we had adults following up on us and directing us when needed, but it was our duty to the community as students of Sacred Heart.  I enjoyed it!

Giving back to the community should be introduced and instilled in every child from a young age.  It’s good for the soul, it’s good for the recipients, it’s good to set an example, and it’s good for everyone’s over spiritual well-being.  It breaks my heart to hear of a child or an adult that has never volunteered for the community, or those that are not interested in giving back.  They are the ones missing out on a great experience given to us from God.  He made us all different so we can rely on one another.  Giving in the form of a monetary gift is certainly accepted and needed, but it is only one side of community service.  The act of volunteering your time and skills and getting involved is another side side all together and one worth trying.

It’s never too late to give back.  There are so many organizations in need of help!

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