Norman This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


by M. S., Brockton, MA

Once a week from November to June, I work as a junior volunteer at the Cardinal Cushing General Hospital in Brockton. This job is also known as a "candy striper." I've been doing this for over two years. In the beginning, I loved it. But, as many jobs do, it got boring and tedious after awhile. For some reason, however, I stick with it.

Most of the time when volunteering, I do what is asked, For example, I go in a patient's room, change their water, say hello and leave. One day in May or June of 1992, I went into Room 2407 for what I thought was a routine water pitcher change, but the person I met made me realize why I keep volunteering. His name is Norman.

I walked into that room, with my candy-striper smile and politely asked the man if he wanted more water. The man I saw was gray-haired, probably in his 50s and on the heavy side. The thing I remember is that he seemed so cheerful. Since the majority of patients in the hospital are geriatric, most are not even close to happy. He said, "sure!" in the happiest voice I ever remember hearing from a patient. I took that pitcher and walked down the hall to get water. As soon as I left the room, I knew he was different.

After I finished my duties, I went back to talk to him. He was so glad to talk. He was in the hospital because he had had a hip replacement. I still have trouble believing how anyone who just had surgery as painful as that could be so cheerful. Looking back I find it strange that I could have a conversation like the one we had with someone I barely knew, let alone almost 40 years older. We talked about everything. He told me about his wife and his children. I told him about my parents and school.

He asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him that at the time, I didn't, but a couple months before I had broken up with one. Then he told me what is probably the best advice that I have ever been given. He said, "The next time you like a boy, think to yourself: would you want your children to be like him?" Since then, every time I find myself in this situation, I ask myself that question and think of Norman. Before I knew it, I realized Norman and I talked right through my dinner break. But I did not mind at all.

That night there was an awards banquet at the hospital. I earned my 100-hour pin. Afterwards, I went back to his room. His wife was there. They were eating pizza. I could hear them talking and laughing down the hall. The three of us talked for a little while. They congratulated me. He and his wife were so similar; they were both so happy.

I wanted to see Norman again. So I volunteered the next Sunday morning. I looked into his room and noticed that he had other visitors. Disappointed, I walked down the hall. He was once again delighted that I had come to see him. I told him that I was at the hospital for a while and that I had waited for his other guests to leave. He told me they were his neighbors and he wanted me to meet them. We talked for a couple of hours and then it was time for me to go home. I thought that it would be the last time I would ever see him.

Before I knew it, another year of volunteering had come and gone. Last April vacation, I was working at the hospital one Thursday afternoon. I walked into a room and saw a heavy-set, gray-haired man sitting on the counter by the window. It was Norman. I didn't recognize him at first. A woman in the room turned to me and said, "You look familiar." It was his wife. They remembered me. They were visiting their friend, Jeanne.

After I finished my assigned duties, I came back to Jeanne's room. Down that hall, I could hear that chatter and laughter of Norman and his wife and Jeanne and her husband. I sat with them for a while and I told Norman that I often thought of his advice. He seemed happy. After an hour, more visitors came to see Jeanne, so I left. I haven't seen Norman since that day.

When I volunteer now and question why I do not quit, I think of Norman. People like him make it worth my while. Every now and then, I will think of him and wonder what he is doing, Whatever it is, I bet he's happy.

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

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 10 at 4:09 am
i love this so much!
heaven said...
May 4, 2012 at 2:04 am
it is a nice experience to be a volunteer but it needs courageand commitment.keep up the good work.
Site Feedback