Thank you, Ruth This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 31, 2011
By
Now that I take a closer look at my past, I am thankful for one particular mistake I made that should have ruined my life but instead helped me realize what it means to be a true member of the community. More importantly, it led me to a person who helped me become more mature.

There’s no doubt that the mistake I made was doltish. My punishment was 20 hours of community service. At the time, that seemed like an eternity. At first, I didn’t know where I would be spending these 20 hours, but eventually I went to a retirement home.

I can still remember the vile smell of the home when I first walked through the automatic doors. Just as I was considering a dash for the exit to get some fresh air, the volunteer coordinator started giving me instructions. Number one task on the checklist was helping the staff and seniors with lunch in the dining room. That was where I met Ruth, one of the residents who helped broaden my mind.

My job couldn’t have been simpler; all I had to do was place bibs on the residents and put their food trays in front of them. Most of the seniors were nice and some were quiet, but Ruth was the exact ­opposite. When it was her turn to receive a bib and a tray, as I approached her neck with the plastic bib, she said, “Stick it up your ­[behind]!”

I was appalled by her vulgarity; how could an elderly woman who looked so sweet be so sour? This question lingered during my service there. Was it something I had said or done? Was she just having a bad day? I had to know.

When my community service hours were done, I still had not figured out a good reason for Ruth’s attitude. In the week afterward, my English class was reading Walk Two Moon by Sharon Creech. When I got home the day we finished the book, it finally hit me. Lethargically sitting on my couch with a cup of green tea, I realized why Ruth said that jaw-dropping statement.

Ruth, like many other seniors, had reached the end of her independence. She could no longer take care of herself and had to rely on strangers. Most of her freedom had been stripped away when she came to the retirement home. Imagine having to wear a bib and play bingo for the remaining ten or more years of your life. It doesn’t sound like a good way to spend the rest of your life.

When I understood why Ruth was the way she was, I could finally appreciate what other people have to go through. No matter how much I would like to tell Ruth and others like her that I understand their pain, I honestly do not, not yet at least.

However, giving my time to the community has helped me become a more selfless person and has taught me to enjoy giving to others. I wouldn’t mind walking in through those sliding doors and inhaling that unique aroma again in order to help brighten the day of those who don’t have much to look forward to.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Creech said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 6:32 am
Appreciated your sensitive comments!
 
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