"Bingo? I have to play bingo with a group of people in a hospital, people that I don't even know?! I guess so."(This did not seem like a night of fun for me.)
I went through with it to complete a requirement for religious training. My participation with "the group of people in a hospital" I had so desperately dreaded has spanned four years, and I still do it. Granted, I don't help save lives nor do I put food in the mouths of the hungry, but I think that my job is pretty important. The last Wednesday of every month, I go with my mother and her organization to Helen Hayes Hospital to play bingo with the patients.
When I started, I feared being in a room with sick and disabled people. What was I supposed to say to them? How was I supposed to act? How was I supposed to look at them and not see their problems? When I walked in for the first time, I saw people lacking limbs and people with no movement in their hands. I saw a lot of things I had never seen before. It scared me that these people could just ignore these problems and play bingo.
Fortunately, this fear grew into respect. One time, a blind woman played. I got to help her and to talk to her. She was a normal woman. That surprised me and somewhat opened my eyes. After that, I stopped fearing them. They were just people, just with a few problems. If it didn't bother them, why should it bother me?
The time that really sticks out most in my mind is when a boy (about my age) was wheeled into the room. He had been in a car accident. He had suffered the loss of many skills, including speech. I chose to help him play because he was so close to my age. At first it was hard to understand him, hard to look past his wheelchair. After a while, we got to talking. The slurs in his speech didn't stick out as much. It was scary to think that it could have been anyone I knew that this had happened to. It was scary to think that he would never walk again. How could he only be two years older than me and have to deal with never walking again? I told him I didn't think it was fair. He looked at me and grinned. He told me that you have to deal with what comes, that you can't obsess over "unfair." I learned a lot from him.
When I go there now, I don't think about the "unfair." Even though it is, it's pointless to waste time thinking about it. These people are the same as you and me. They don't want special treatment; they just want to have some fun. Whenever I go, I make sure they have fun. I do this because this may be the last time I see them. That's not a morbid thought; I may never see them again because they may go home. Even though it would be hard to never see their smiling faces when they yell "BINGO," it would be harder if they were there for many months. It feels good to go and find out that so and so went home. It's better for them to be with their families.
This started as something I had to do. Now I ask my mom to take me. I like to do it. The thanks that I love the most is when a little girl smiles or an old man laughs. That's all the thanks I need.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.