Summer 2013

Happiness and kindness. Those are the emotions that appear the most when my thoughts wander to the last two months. I am an intern from George Mason University here for the  summer, learning much about not only the Little Sisters but also the work they do for the elderly poor.  

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided to come to Richmond for the summer.Even still, I don’t quite know what to expect for the week ahead. Each day is marvelously different! I have been lucky enough to have a partner intern — Taylor Stukenborg, and between the two of us we have experienced some pretty unique things here.

There are so many stories and ways we’ve been able to serve the Residents, and I’d like to share a few with you.

Some days we will work with the restorative nurses, helping the Residents with daily exercise. Other times we spend our afternoons with the activities department, sometimes playing bingo or other games, and sometimes going on outings. We’ve gone to a Baptist church for a bible study and some delicious home cooked southern food, and recently we watched a baseball movie at a beautiful historic theater.

One week we worked in organizing supplies from the French Food Festival. It wasn’t a very glamorous job, but it made me fully appreciate how much work goes into putting on this fundraiser- and all for the Residents!(It also made me very hungry for French food, but that’s a different story).

Father Gallagher (a Resident) celebrated his 50th year of being a priest this summer, and I was able to help with a picture board depicting his life and priesthood. There was a big celebration afterwards with food cooked by Chef Alain and desserts prepared by another Resident, Chef Philip.

Getting to know the Residents has been one of the largest blessings of the summer. To meet all of these strangers and in a few short weeks love them as family still surprises me. Perhaps it is the bond made through laughter and conversations that are as uplifting to my mind as they are to my heart. Maybe it is the way I was welcomed with such joy into their lives.

There are fragments of happy moments that I have written down and wish to remember for a long time yet- the way Leona included me in the afternoon rosary; Rosemary and Philip teaching me not just about baking but also about lasting love in marriage; Manuel always greeting me and letting me practice my not so good Spanish with him; and Esperanza reminding me in face and character of my own sweet mother. The Sisters too, play an important role in this story. Mother Paul’s stories leave me holding my side in laughter and I will always remember when Sister Mary Chantal caught me accidentally dozing as rosary started, but didn’t take a ruler to my hands. (Thank you very much Sr. Mary Chantal!) Nor will I forget Sr. Angela’s stories about the missions or Sr. Colette’s frequent and heartfelt “God Bless You!”

The staff and employees are another point of inspiration. They are patient, kind, and treat the Residents as if they are family. They always go the extra mile — whether it is the housekeepers who will pause to chat with a Resident while they are cleaning, or the CNA’s who are patient even at trying times.

Before I came to Richmond, I was struggling with some doubt about whether I should be doing this internship — it is unrelated to my major, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would help me in the future. Was I ever wrong! I have learned spades of things — how to set tables properly, make hospital corner beds, and sort paperwork like some kind of office demigod. More importantly, there are the less tangible qualities that I have noticed. Even though I’m often busy, I’ve learned there is always time to ask how someone is — and to wait to hear the answer. I have also come to appreciate rather than dismiss these older years in a person’s life. For the Residents have much to share and teach me, and they are all shining in their golden years!

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe!Plans to give you a future full of hope.”Jeremiah 29:11
– Gabrielle Hanley