Volunteer hours prove rewarding

Kristin Marthaler

Kristin Marthaler

Sixteen credits, three jobs, and now required by a class to volunteer 12 hours? Where do I fit that in? I guess I’ll pass up sleep. After all, this is college and that’s what students do.

Getting into the routine of 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. days, I figured out how to wiggle in 12 hours. A few hours every Tuesday and Thursday should be good.

So far it’s worked. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 1-3, I visit the United Retirement Center in Brookings. Right now, my duty entails painting the nails of female residents. My dream job. Literally. I paint my nails at least two times a day.

Who knew that forcing myself to spend time with these ladies would turn out to be so therapeutic? Something viewed as a chore, forced homework and painful meaningless chit-chat, turned into something so much more.

Talking with these ladies, I found some were never married and have never had children. One sits in the lobby or her room all day, and her fulfillment comes from getting her nails done every other day. Another has children and grand-children who come every day. She gets her nails done to look wonderful for her children.

Why is it that someone else’s hardship finally makes me think about my life? I want to have children so I don’t sit in a nursing home alone. I want to be married so I have someone who will visit me. Or, if it was switched around, so my husband had someone to visit him.

Painting these ladies’ nails, I realized, was the best way to relate to them. It’s pretty awkward if you have to sit in a chair facing someone in a wheelchair and figure out something to say. It’s a lot easier to ask one of the ladies to pick out a color, argue with them about why bright red would be even better and then go on painting. It draws an extra closeness between the two of us. And after 15 ladies, you begin to get to know them all really well.

What’s my point? I’m glad I was forced to volunteer. One of my classes required I volunteer 12 hours. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I graduate in December and I need this class. I think this is one of the best ideas a teacher has ever had, getting students involved in the community. Students could volunteer anywhere they wanted to. Some did church youth groups, others the Boys and Girls Club. I can’t think of a better way to get SDSU students involved with the community. Yeah, folks at the retirement center may be over 80, but they know Brookings. They know where to go or what there is to do. Most of the ideas are bingo or sporting events on campus, but all ideas are welcomed.

These ladies have inspired me though. To look within myself, to want to do something with my life. To want to make a difference in someone else’s life. Making a friendship with these ladies is just a bonus.

#1.884254:340998890.jpg:Marthaler, Kristin.jpg:Kristin Marthaler, Beyond the Babble: