Little Things, Big Difference at Hope Village, Houston, TX
Can small things make a difference? Well, that was the experiment a group of twenty of us volunteers carried out at Hope Village on Saturday, July 22nd. Hope Village is dedicated to providing superior yet affordable residential and support services to children and adults with mental disabilities. We laughed, played games and danced with the residents. We shared food and heart-felt conversations with them. At the end of the day, we realized that we definitely made a difference in our own lives. Though I can’t even fully begin to understand the impact it is having on my own life, here’s a few stories from my experience volunteering at Hope Village:
I was sitting next to Kirk, one of the residents at Hope Village, while playing bingo. I was the very first person to have a bingo, so everyone was very excited at my table and looking forward to winning prizes that we had brought for them. We cheered for each other and had a lot of fun being together. The residents delighted in posing for a picture when they won a prize. Time went by so fast and so did the prizes. Sensing Kirk’s anxiousness who was only one number away from a bingo in pretty much all directions, I suggested that he could just go get a prize. He simply said, “I don’t want to be unfair,” and went back to cheering for others. His response left me shaken. Encountering such integrity and commitment to truth has left a mark on my consciousness, and I know my life will never be the same.
No doubt all of us volunteers’ lives have been affected in one way or another. One thing we were all touched by, though, was the genuine care and concern the residents had for each other. When someone couldn’t hear or follow the instructions while playing bingo or other games, their neighbors took delight in helping them. When one resident fell down while dancing, there or four others rushed to help her get up and make sure she was okay. They really looked after each other, which one would expect to be natural because they live together and have known each other for years. However, when one resident noticed a band-aid on one of my fingers did I realize that their care and concern expanded well beyond their circle of friends. He just grabbed by hand and wanted to know what had happened to my finger. He started asking me when and how I had cut myself and whether or not it hurt. He felt relieved and smiled when I told him that it doesn’t hurt at all. Though the stain of blood from my finger got washed away, I’ve been tainted by love I felt among volunteers and residents at Hope Village.
See pictures from Hope Village: http://www.bethecause.org/gallery/Hope-Village
Other volunteers’ reflections:
I was a bit tentative on what to expect, but barely a minute after arriving, I got my first lesson of the day – one among many, I hope, I never forget. I introduced myself and was going around the table asking everybody’s name and finally came around to Rex, who had been very silent and looked unreachable, or so I presumed, naively. But as soon as I approached him, his demeanor underwent a sudden transformation, as if a switch had been activated, and he spontaneously reached out and gave a big kiss on my cheek. Wow! It hit me like – “small talk is nice, but here’s something more personal and earnest”. It was wonderful and still makes me smile when I think about it.
Later, when it was time to leave, one of the residents thanked us for visiting. What can you say to that? These 2 incidents paraphrase what I saw at Hope-Village. Fearlessness, kindness, gratefulness. And having fun :) I feel humbled and privileged to have been a part of this beautiful learning experience.
Today was an awesome day and it would not have been the same if it was not for the enthusiasm, energy, love, and passion of each and everyone of you [volunteers]. I have been so energetic and happy today. I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed our event. Thank you so much for everything.
It was indeed a wonderful experience for all of us. I can’t stop sharing what I experienced yesterday with all my friends. I realized that many of us here are so engrossed in our own lives that we don’t seem to find time for others at all. And when we do take the initiative to do little things for them, it is extremely rewarding. I agree with you that the most impressive aspect of it all was the care that the residents had for each other. Also, they were so uninhibited in everything they did, be it expressing themselves or doing what they liked. Thank you so much for this opportunity. In all, I had a very nice time and would love to do it again.