When I accepted my part-time job at the gourmet food/cheese shop, the hours conflicted with days I volunteered for our town’s Counsel on Elder Affairs. Instead of serving lunch on Wednesdays, plus baking for, setting up and cleaning at a weekly senior breakfast, my schedule allowed for me to set up for the breakfast before rushing off to the paying job. I lost out on the lunch totally. Last week though, my days at the shop changed and for the first time in over a year, I wasn't there on a Wednesday. I spend the morning on LCS Writes work, and when I looked up at 11:00, I realized there was plenty of time to see if they needed me at the center.
Volunteering with senior citizens offers profound reward. The work is simple, the remuneration complex. Seniors’ eyes glow when they see our “younger” faces. They openly express their gratitude for the simple tasks we perform, serving lunch, cleaning up, engaging in a little lighthearted banter.
I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have my favorites and when I poked my head around the corner on Wednesday and S___’s eyes lit up, it was a reminder of the value of connecting with other humans, regardless of age. M_____ held my hand as I teased her about the bandage on her head and we laughed when I reminded her that the last time I saw her she had a bruise there too. Of course we weren’t making fun of her falls, only acknowledging that limitations occur and, as my father used to say; “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” As the wrinkled faces of the friends I’ve come to know nodded and waved, there was also an awareness of open spaces. Regular seats had new occupants, or worse, remained empty, which made me consider the warmth from the hug S____ gave me a while longer— kind of like the lollypop I snagged from the counter in the Elder Affairs office; a sweetness savored long after the last dish was cleared.