For the last three years, my family and I have volunteered on Thanksgiving Day at a retirement village that is home to a hundred residents. Many have little or no family so we act as their surrogate family.
We arrive around 8 a.m. and meet up with the other volunteers. My family brings lots of food and others bring utensils, tablecloths and decorations to make the dining room festive. More donations of food arrive from grocery stores and businesses. My brother and I sneak in sweets the residents aren’t even supposed to see such as sodas, cakes, cookies and pies.
Once the dining room is set up, residents start wandering in to socialize. We make sure that they are served appetizers and a beverage, then help those who are unable to walk to dinner. Once seated, everyone introduces themselves and says what they are thankful for. The responses vary but at least one person always says they are thankful for us being there to share their holiday.
Taking time on Thanksgiving to serve others makes me feel good. I get more from that day by sharing my time and I realize how blessed I really am as I give to others who don’t have their family and want so little from me. My time there brings joy to these older people who appreciate the kindness and a smile. If I can make someone’s day by spending five hours with them, it makes everything worthwhile and that is a beautiful thing.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.