Today was our first day of intensive service. In the morning, we drove to a day home for disabled individuals in what almost looked like the middle of a neighborhood. When we walked into the Rochelle Center, we were all immediately thrown into a very new and uncomfortable setting. After we signed in, we found the main office empty. One of the nurses saw us and told us that we could divide up and go to certain rooms. Not feeling comfortable enough to be thrown into new service without an introduction, we waited for the lady who was supposed to meet us. She came only a few minutes later because she was wrapping up a meeting.
She briefly explained the different rooms at the center that we could volunteer at and quickly divided us up. So we still felt thrown into it. Because we plan on coming to the Rochelle Center the rest of the week and rotating rooms, I’ll just talk about the room I volunteered at first. As she was describing each room, I thought, “I’d be okay doing either of those first two rooms she described but probably not that last one.” Which room was I assigned to you ask? Yup–that last room. God was basically saying, “oh thanks for thinking that–I know exactly where to put you now.”
My group that had the same assignment as me timidly peeked into the room at the end of the hall. This room had day patients from a center called Clover Bottom Developmental. These individuals are on the most severe end of the spectrum of intellectual disabilities. Most all were in chairs and a couple were hooked up to feeding tubes. The staff and nurses introduced us to all of them and their little quirks: someone didn’t like to be touched, someone laughed when you pretended to trip, someone loved to tap their feet to music, someone would want to just to be left alone. Overwhelmed, we tried to think about how we could do the coloring craft that we brought. Sensing our uncomfortableness, one of the nurses Monique asked us if anyone could sing. I shot my hand up into the air–this was an activity that I was comfortable with. All my group mates agreed that they would prefer to do songs instead of coloring. As they handed out cymbals and tambourines, I pulled up children’s songs, camp songs, and Christmas songs to see the lyrics on my phone. The best songs were “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Hokey Pokey.” One of the individuals actually tapped her feet when we sang the verse “if you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet,” and another individual laughed so much when he saw us spinning ourselves around for the hokey pokey. When we couldn’t think of a song, Monique really helped us out by leading us in song, which made all of us more comfortable.
Later on in the day, we went back to Leisa Hammett’s house to help her with her daughter’s art business. When we arrived at her house, she was in factory-mode. Her whole house was a workshop of different stations to label, fold, collate, or package cards and tiles of her daughter’s artwork. As I was sticking labels onto tiles, her daughter Grace arrived home from a transitional school. Right when she got in, she ran around the house to see what everyone was doing, with a big smile on her face. And when we left, she wanted to give everyone a hug.
Because we heard it was national pancake day and IHOP was giving out free short stacks, we just had to stop by an IHOP. While waiting for two tables for our party of 11, some of my group noticed this guy outside reading. Apparently, there’s this instagram profile that some of my group follow called Hot Dudes Reading. The captions to these pictures are the best part and they ask for donations to provide books to kids in need. Check them out on instagram @hotdudesreading
My friends snapped a sneaky picture of this IHOP guy to add.
On the way to our next service site, we had a mind-blowingly, fun, let’s-all-sing-the-songs-of-our-childhood sing-along in the car. It was too awesome, really. Britney Spears. Avril Lavigne. Hilary Duff. Gwen Stefani. Gretchen Wilson. The list goes on.
Though we had to get out of our party van, the music fun didn’t stop. Our next service site was taking part in a dance class at the YMCA.
When we got there, the class was already dancing. There were a few girls in skirts and a guy, pirouetting and looking like they were having a lot of fun. After they finished their number they were working on, our group got to sit down with them. One of the leaders then led us in an exercise. We thought of different shapes and what feelings we might associate them with. For example, a square was mad while a rectangle was happy. Then, we got into groups with at least one dancer and one alternative break member. We got two ribbons and, when the dance instructor started the jazz music, we made the shape that best described our feelings about the song with the ribbons in our group. After a few songs, we all got ribbons and got to dance around to more jazz songs. I’m usually uncomfortable with the way I dance, but I felt very free to dance however I wanted because all the dancers in the class didn’t care about how anyone danced–we were all just having fun.
During our dancing activities, one of the leaders filmed us. Our activity is part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of this organization called VSA which is a state organization for arts and disabilities. This video will be exchanged with a partner in Austria, who is videoing a similar jazz activity. These videos will be put up online as a lead-up for the main celebration in July in DC. We are one of sixty countries represented in this celebration.
Then, we did a similar activity with visual art. We made a list of colors and associated different feelings with each color. Then, as the instructor played some more jazz, each group got to color a white poster with whatever colors described their feelings towards the songs. It was really neat to see each groups’ posters at the end. Our group all stayed within our own areas while other groups crisscrossed other people’s drawings.
We may feel like the most important service is the one that we get the most positive feelings from, but service isn’t about us or about us feeling comfortable. We have only a glimpse of the potential impact we are making each time we serve.