Volunteer service is something that is critical to the foundation of a great community. TJ requires all of its graduating seniors to have at least 20 hours of community service. I have always loved helping people, as cliche as that sounds. The look of happiness when someone shows kindness to another human being is one to be cherished. As part of my community service, I wanted to give back to an organization that has impacted my life in some way. My dad was a patient at the hospital where I volunteer. Since it impacted him and helped him to walk again, every Monday during my lunch hour, I volunteer at Craig Hospital, helping recently injured quadriplegic patients relearn what we consider simple skills: holding a spoon, reaching for food, and moving a chair. One Monday, I jokingly said that I can’t tie my shoes correctly — I still utilize the “bunny ears” method — when a patient spoke up and said, “At least you can tie your shoes.” I was stunned for a moment, sadly embarrassed for my insensitivity. Luckily, the patient laughed, gave me a reassuring smile, and asked for more salad.
My dad always revisits the saying, “you complain about wanting trendy new shoes until you see the man with no feet.” The meaning behind these words finally made sense when this patient reminded me of the seemingly unimportant tasks that we take for granted. The patient will probably never be able to tie shoes again. I still remember the day I learned how to tie my shoes — with proper “bunny ear” etiquette. Excited for my success, I ran to my parents and announced with glee, “I tied my shoes all by myself for the first time!” My parents reacted as though I had accomplished a ground-breaking scientific discovery. At Craig Hospital that day, I developed a new understanding of truly walking in someone else’s shoes. I realized that if I were in this patient’s shoes, I would not be able to put them on my feet, take a step in them or likely ever be able to tie them. This little moment changed my outlook on life. Volunteering is something we all can take part in to make not just other people’s lives better, but also our own. And if there seems to be no other positive, at least I can tie my own shoes and help my patient tie his.