“God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can use prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach.” - Romans 12: 6-7
Our third opportunity to volunteer came in Hilton Head, South Carolina. We were graciously hosted by a few of my greatest friends, Kyle and Taylor Lomprez. To put into perspective their generosity, they fed us, let us live in our camper in their backyard for 4 nights, let us do laundry and use their shower whenever we needed, ON TOP OF having 2 very young kids and part of Taylor’s family visiting at the same exact time. Everyone needs some people in their lives like the Lomprez family.
Originally we hoped to work with Habitat for Humanity, building in areas affected by recent hurricane damage. After we made contact with the volunteer coordinator, we learned that they were between construction projects and wouldn’t be getting started on something new until after we were gone. After calling every place we could think of from humane societies to soup kitchens, we were starting to feel like we weren’t going to find something to do in the area. Finding good volunteer opportunities while traveling has been more difficult than we ever anticipated. Maryssa, having spent portions of the last 5 years as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in a dementia unit in her hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin, suggested that we reach out to a local nursing home and see if they had any use for volunteers.
Maryssa has a passion in helping these people, but I had never spent time in a nursing home before. I really didn’t know what to expect, and the unknown definitely gave me a little anxiety. We arrived around 11:30 AM at the Life Care Center of Hilton Head Island, and were greeted by the jubilant volunteer’s coordinator who was festively wearing a pair of cat ears for halloween. She ushered us into the lunch room where the residents were getting situated for their meals. The ensuing scene was exactly how you think it would look. There were a bunch of elderly people situated around tables, some sleeping while others were more eagerly awaiting their lunch. Maryssa was a natural, heading right over to a table and starting up a conversation with a couple of older women like they were old friends. I awkwardly stood there, unsure of what to do. I knew that many of the people in the room had dementia and I had no experience in how to talk to them. I observed Maryssa, then quickly asked her what kind of protocol I should follow here. “Just speak with them directly, like any other person. Be loud and just ask if you can sit with them. Some will want to talk with you, some won’t.”
With my newfound confidence, I approached a few tables and started a few conversations. Eventually, I left the friendly confines of where Maryssa and Samantha were talking with people and headed out on my own. This is when I met Miss Louise. She was telling me about how she suddenly lost her ability to walk today, but she was hoping she’d be able to head home soon. After a few minutes in a looped conversation, I was able to learn a little more about her but I was really blown away by how different her reality was than what was really going on. For Louise, a woman in her late 80’s to early 90’s, her parents were going to be back at her house when she got back. I was humbled by how often I take for granted having good mental health. The theme of reverting back to times when more family was around was common between the residents here. They all had stories that I don’t doubt were true, but were positioned elsewhere in time. Although we were all living at the same moment, their realities were all scattered between broken remnants of memories.
After lunch, we had the chance to take a few residents outside to enjoy the warm breeze and sunshine. The weather was a little warmer than usual, and it was pretty amazing to see how each of the ladies we brought outside soaked up the energizing rays from the sun. Miss Edna, a beautiful women with sparkling blue eyes, was among our favorites. It seemed like her spirit for adventure would fit right in with ours. “Boy does this sun feel great” she’d repeat every few minutes. It was in these moments that I realized many of these conversations and memories we were sharing would likely be forgotten by most of these people within an hour of us leaving. I struggled to see the impact we were making by visiting here until I changed my perspective. Often times we are so caught up in the mysteries of the future or the the could-have-beens of the past that we fail to see the impact we are having on the world at the only moment that matters: the present.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -Matthew 6:34
Our Jeep is now pointed south to soak up as much warm weather as possible. Do you know of spots or places we should visit? Are the volunteer opportunities that we should focus our time towards? The best part of this trip is the human connection we build as we travel, so please reach out and join us with any suggestions!
Adventure comes to those who GO!