Lessons from Volunteering

Lessons from Volunteering

Student derives important life lessons from volunteer experience at the Hebrew Home

Let me tell you about an amazing experience I had through Community Service.  Four years ago, when I first started volunteering at the Hebrew Home, I had trouble relating to the elderly people with whom I was working with because many of them were confined to wheelchairs and were unable to speak.  That's why Sarah R, a resident on the fifth floor, instantly became my favorite person to work with.  She could walk, talk, crack jokes, and even sing a few Hebrew songs if you asked politely.

My first impression of this woman was that she looked and acted like my late great grandmother whom I had known for only eight years of my life.  I remember calling my grandmother as soon as I left the Hebrew Home on my first day and saying, "you'll never believe it but I am working with a woman who reminds me exactly of Grandma Sara."  Yes, you heard it correctly, my great grandmother's name was Sarah too.   In fact, her last name was Tunick, which sounds eerily close to the resident’s last name. .  When I noticed this similarity, I just knew that Sarah R. was something special. 

I set aside hours out of my day to spend time with her talking about her family and her upbringing.  She mostly bragged about her family and how much she loved them, which made me realize how important my own family is to me.  I felt as if I was getting a second chance to spend time with my great grandmother whom I never really got to know that well.  In fact, Sarah was the reason I kept going back every week.  It is because of her that I fell in love with community service and helping those who are in need.  She demonstrated to me how ironic it is that, many times, the volunteers can benefit just as much, if not more, from the people whom they are helping. 

Unfortunately, Sarah got sick about six weeks ago.  I could immediately tell from her actions that something was wrong.  One Saturday, after I had taken Sarah back up to her room from Shabbat Services, I asked the Rabbi if he would notify me if anything serious were to happen to her that next week.  Low and behold, she passed away that Tuesday.  I made a point of attending her Shiva (held at her son's house) and letting her family know how much she meant to me.  They were very kind to me and I could tell how much she meant to them too. 

Thinking back, I realize how blessed I am to have her as a part of my life. I know that I will continue serving others because she has inspired me to.  I also know that going back to the Hebrew Home will never be the same without her.  Even though the time I got to spend with her was brief, she made a significant impact on me that will last a lifetime. 


Michael Flax


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