I Will Never Forgetby Elisabeth Bagatta, New City, NY As I walked through the empty hallways, I could only imagine what would be on the other side of one of those doors. I didn't really know what to expect. It was my first time working with physically handicapped people. I found Room 225 and knocked on the door. A tall, pleasant, middle-aged woman invited me in, and introduced herself as Joan.Toward the center was a long, wooden table encircled with fifteen seated women. Joan politely introduced me to each. There were so many names, I wasn't sure how I would remember them.After the brief introduction, Joan explained what each woman suffered from. Some were deaf, others were slightly blind, some had Down's syndrome; others were just slow learners, who were able to work in society.I was still a little nervous, but I decided to sit down and talk to someone. I found an empty chair next to a small elderly woman named Margaret. She told me all about her brothers and sisters and their families.By the end of this conversation, I felt much more at ease. I walked around and got to know most of the other women. Some were a little difficult to understand, but I sat and listened carefully.For several weeks, I returned to the home. Each week, the women and I worked together on small projects. My favorite was the Popsicle reindeer. The ladies had some trouble trying to stick the pom-pom balls onto the popsicle sticks; but when they mastered it, they were proud of the end result: a stick with green pipe-cleaner antlers, googly eyes and a red pom-pom nose.We ended our visit with a snack: a cup of bubbling soda or a bottle of apple cider and two home-baked cookies. I enjoyed watching the women laugh and joke. Sharing the snack and small conversation transformed these lonely, alienated women into a vision of their possible selves. It brought out who they truly were.When I had completed my necessary hours, I was sad to say good-bye. Not only had I helped those in need, but I formed a special bond with these people whom I will never forget. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.