A Saturday in April by Kate Fawls, Milton, MA Every year, I look forward to the Saturday when the Day for the Disabled is held at a local high school. I first heard about this event through Key Club, a service organization at my school. It is held each year at our brother school in Boston. Signing up for this event three years ago led to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.I still remember the first time I nervously walked into the gym, not knowing what to expect. I had heard that I would be paired with a disabled person for the day. I wondered what we would do and what being disabled really meant. At the orientation, I found answers, but my nervousness remained. Each volunteer would be paired with a person who was in some way disabled. Some were blind, some could not talk or walk, some had diseases that left them physically disabled, but all were real people who had real feelings. Simply by having lunch and playing Bingo with them, we would make their day. After the talk, our guests began to arrive.I do not remember many details of that day, but I do remember my special friend, Ilda. Ilda (it is a Finnish name, I was quickly informed) was an elderly woman with a vivid personality who had some trouble walking. She had a great sense of humor and was very enjoyable company. She was the main reason I returned the following year. Purely by chance, I was again paired with her. We introduced ourselves and quickly realized we had met a year ago. The highlight of that Saturday was when Ilda won the teddy bear in Bingo. I will not soon forget her jubilant expression. This year I excitedly returned for the third time. This time I looked for Ilda, and she looked for me. And so we again ended up together and again had a great day.I cannot even begin to express in words the joy that spending the day in that gym brings. Maybe it is the hilarious stories Ilda tells or the advice she gives or even the attempts she makes trying to set me up with that "nice young man with brown eyes" who also volunteers. I have learned so much from her (and from all the guests) by spending just three Saturdays with her. Maybe the joy comes from knowing that I am helping her have a good time. "Remember last year ..." when we did this or that is a common phrase. Maybe it comes from hearing her say, "Oh, I'm so glad to see you. That teddy bear from last year is still sitting on my bed." Or maybe my happiness comes from meeting and helping other people. Wherever it originates, it is a great feeling - one that more people should experience. Volunteering is an enriching experience and a great way to give back to the community. I know that I will not soon forget my experiences and I look forward to seeing Ilda next year. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.