Service With a Smile This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 4, 2010
Every third Saturday of the month is picnic time at the Casa. The Casa is no ordinary “house”- it’s a retirement building filled with a crayon box variety of senior citizens. And the picnic days are never your average day at the park. Actually, the random, inclement weather usually forces us to move into the tiny, white tiled basement of their living complex. And what am I doing spending a fourth of my teenage Saturdays with fifty seventy-five-and-up year olds? Playing bingo, of course.

My volunteering work there consists mostly of menial tasks, like watching over the viewers in the TV room or passing out relish covered hot dogs and root beer for special occasions. So, when I was offered the chance to lead the Bingo games, I jumped at the opportunity. I was excited but not very nervous for my first Saturday picnic; after all, how anxious could a bunch of people with strong resemblances to my grandparents make me?

How wrong I was. Sure, everything was prepared on time, the comfortable chairs were pulled out and spots were in place for wheelchairs, the TV was on the Cubs game, and everyone got to pick out their own playing cards, but somehow none of my hard work satiated their wants. Before I even turned the microphone on I was getting complaints left and right. One lady thought that it was rude to show my knees in public (I was wearing long shorts), and a frail gentleman in the corner yelled out randomly for me to refill his drink even though it was brimming. They were just the tip of the iceberg. As I began to fulfill a lifelong dream of Bingo-calling, I was yelled at with everything from “You talk too softly” to “Are you trying to take make us lose?”

Needless to say, I was frustrated and confused. I had never experienced this kind of behavior out of the Casa residents. And even though I had tried so hard to make everything perfect, my attempt at professionalism seemed to be a complete and utter waste. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

After a short break I came back with a different approach. Instead of trying to make everything perfect and professional, I relaxed a bit. I made real conversation with different tables, and tried some classy humor at the microphone, which helped relax all of the picnic-goers as well. Instead of a punk-know-it-all teenager, who had probably replaced their favorite bingo caller, I had become someone who genuinely wanted to have fun and get to know them. They appreciated my efforts, and the rest of the day was a complete success.

I gained two important lessons that day. The first is patience. The second, and most important lesson, is that there isn’t only one way to solve a problem. I’ve kept those lessons with me now for almost a year of Bingo and picnic Saturdays. They’ve also helped me in school, when I’m dealing with my parents, and, to be honest, patience always comes in handy when you have three younger siblings. I’m glad I stuck with my hardworking volunteer position at the Casa, because it has been the most fulfilling and rewarding work I have ever done.





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