Be the Cause

Service events in Houston, TX

Christmas Caroling at the Houston Hospice

Christmas caroling at the Houston Hospice was definitely one of the most beautiful volunteer experiences I’ve ever had. The Houston Hospice is an in-patients unit where patients are brought in because they are very sick. Most of the patients who are there usually last only a few days to a few weeks at most. Every time I go there to spend time with patients, I never know if I would see that same patient again next week. Knowing how precious each moment is for these patients, I try to make the most of each visit, each moment I have with them. Especially during the holiday season when they are desperately craving the warmth and comfort of being home with friends and family just like the rest of us, Christmas caroling was a small attempt to bring the joy and spirit of Christmas right where they were.

Caroling event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my good friend Angela’s mother, Mrs. McCall, who brought her husband and her friends to sing for the patients at the Hospice. They all had beautiful voices; one of them even played the piano while the another friend accompanied the singing of familiar songs with his guitar. Within moment of starting the singing, the family members of the patients came out in the hallway to join us. Even the Hospice staff and patients sang along with us. At first when the doors started to open, I thought they were coming out to let us know that we were being too loud, but it turned out that they actually wanted to request us to sing their favorite song. Someone requested us to sing Silent Night while others started to clap and dance as the entire atmosphere was being filled with the spirit of Christmas. Seeing everyone with a big smile on their face, I couldn’t stop thinking of “Bootsie,” the patients on the second floor whom I had visited earlier.

I asked our group to stop by the room of Bootsie as she was lovingly called by everyone in her family, including her thirteen grandchildren. When I was with her earlier, I remembered how anxious she felt thinking that she may not get to go home for Christmas because she may not be around for that long. I told her that Christmas was just around the corner and that I had a surprise for her that would hopefully cheer her up. Sure enough, she lightened up as soon as we approached her room to sing for her. She sang along with us and said she enjoyed every minute of it, and so did we. Caroling was a wonderful way of reaching out to uplift someone’s spirit through beautiful songs that helped get us all in the spirit of Christmas.

Houston Compassion Cell: Christmas Decorations at TSC

My friend and a dedicated and compassionate volunteer (who wishes to remain anonymous) shares his thoughts on TSC Compassion Cell:

TSC is a HIV/AIDS clinic in downtown Houston serving the indigent patient population. It can’t be spotted from the main downtown thoroughfare, instead, you’ve to leave behind the glitzy highrises until you cross some invisible line into the grittier parts of the city, the landscape changes and now you weave through the hauntingly solemn, graffiti-plastered walls, pass beyond the silent, rusty, corrugated-iron and tin store-fronts, negotiate the narrow lanes and the weathered shotgun-style houses, and only then, the ‘clinic’ reveals itself. Picture an anachronistic, southern, mission-style’ish building, transplanted straight out of a spaghetti western, complete with red roof and bright paint to match. In the gray overcast, bitterly-cold afternoon, amidst the fading light and the dreary surroundings, this charming structure seemed surreal, incongruous, and almost metaphorical-beckoning humanity’s unfortunate and providing succor.

Inside, the building is a modern hospital. Southern charm gives way to business efficiency. As I’m riding the elevator, a delegation, what appears to be visitors in some official capacity, gets in and gives me curious detached looks. Suddenly the gravitas of a daily workday in this building dawns on me and my mind wanders; I imagine the hallways being privy to overwhelming amounts of enormous, never-ending, wrenching pain and suffering.

We’re given the fourth floor to decorate and I’m welcomed by friendly faces already hard at work. My eyes feast over the smorgasbord of decoration goodies all laid out. The result of ardous work of good-minded folks who all toiled to collect and haul it. I feel a twinge of guilt, showing up empty-handed in time for the feast, but it soon passes and I’m ready to indulge. In a matter of minutes, like pieces in a well-choreographed tableau, the festoons are hung, the wreath is pinned, and an otherwise drab patient lounge is now aglow in warm color – shimmering gold, silver, and red. The energy in the room is palpable, someone mentions a wish to have some background music – yeah, Roxy music or maybe Ravel, for the Christmas tree folks, I think, take your pick – but it doesn’t matter, we’re already jiving to a lively but silent internal beat.

It’s past business hours, the staff has gone home and the hallways are deserted. I was hoping to talk to the extra-ordinary, everyday folks who inhabit and visit this place, but it’s better that we work unseen, without getting in the way of urgent life-saving business. My earlier morbid thoughts have now given way to happier ones; I imagine holiday cheer flowing through the otherwise cold sterile air and smiles on weary faces.

Finally, it’s wrap-up time. Goodbyes are said and I imagine Santa’s elves vanishing in the darkness. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. Strange. Maybe, I should do this more often

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