As an easily impressionable person, I looked towards Vocare wide-eyed because of the incredible experiences I have heard sitting in those theater seats in years past. Although I was nervous for the program, I didn’t request working with a specific population because I truthfully didn’t have a preference and wanted to see where God would need me. However, this decision to “let go and let God” introduced me to service work that I’d never thought I’d encounter—the elderly with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
For the past 2 weeks, I have been fortunate enough to work at Curative Care in Waukesha, a community-based program to help elderly with memory loss and other concerns remain active and socialize. The whole purpose of Curative Care dedicates its focus to helping such populations thrive, not just merely survive from day to day. Most of the clients there were confined to wheel chairs and walkers; they needed assistance using the restroom and had to be spoon fed lunch. During our time there, Annie Druml and I conducted countless art projects, led exercises, fed clients their lunch, played dice games we had never heard of, and binged many episodes of Golden Girls. Since Curative Care was basically a daycare for the elderly with memory loss, God was showing me the circle of life in its most vulnerable form.
Although I have had some experience because my grandma has Alzheimer’s, I never understood how physically and emotionally draining it is to repeat directions multiple times within seconds. Constantly, I had to take deep breaths to keep myself from yelling at Bill whenever he kept asking when his wife was coming to pick him up (it was always 3 o’clock). Or when Sharon questions everything from why she can’t have milk like everyone else (she didn’t understand what lactose intolerant meant) to what doing a “craft” means because she simply forgot its simple definition. I wondered, “Why was I in this place where my clients didn’t recognize me day to day, nor want to interact with me, while my classmates were hugging little kids who looked up to them and made scrapbooks for them?” It almost didn’t seem fair that I wasn’t having that ideal, dream Vocare experience that I had heard all the older girls talk about.
Amidst all of my questioning and frustration, Firman was the man who singlehandedly silenced my inner conflict. Quickly, beginning the first week, I realized that Firman, a military veteran, a man who married his high school sweetheart, and suffers from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, is the spitting image of my own grandfather. Same flannel sweatpants, same history, and same illness. Seeing Firman struggle to transfer from his wheel chair to a recliner paralleled the toll Parkinson’s had taken on my own grandpa’s body as he can’t stand on his own anymore either. Thus, I concluded that if my grandpa was in a similar environment with his caretakers, I would want him to receive the care and love that he deserves. I struggled with this epiphany of how personal my Vocare experience had become as I felt even more helpless—I’m not a registered nurse, so I couldn’t give Farman his medication or help him use the restroom…so I wondered, “what could I even do to make a difference?”
God answered these reservations after reintroducing a role model into my life who gave me brilliant advice. Mr. Pavlovich, a motivating teacher who lead my reflection group, reminded me that I did, indeed, have a purpose to make a difference even if the clients didn’t realize it. As beings made in the image and likeness of God, everyone deserves respect and dignity. I realized that it was my job, as a steward of God’s Kingdom on Earth, to demonstrate such care to the clients at Curative despite my frustrations and questioning. Firman, without knowing it, completely personalized my purpose of being there. I realized that God put me at Curative Care for one main reason: to meet Firman and reintroduce me to the works of Christ. As a believer, I should uphold the work of Christ despite my hesitations towards my personal connection and his disability. I was where I was exactly supposed to be.
Although it was some of the most challenging service I have ever done, I learned some pretty incredible things about myself and I challenge you to do the same through your own service experience. Vocare was a wake-up call that my faith life desperately needed. I learned that letting go and letting God is truly one of the most remarkable things you can do for yourself. You may not know where you belong or what you should be doing, but by putting your faith and trust in God, He will lead you to places you had no idea you were needed.
Giving your worries and anxieties surrounding service (or even anything in your life) up to God, truly allows us to go forth and answer God’s call just as Vocare’s mission proclaims. God is calling us forth constantly in our lives: through experiences, through places, and especially through people. After I realized that all people, despite their age or disability, are fearfully and wonderfully made by our creator, I could confidently open my eyes and ears to God’s call to go forth. Although you may be in situations you’d never expect—like working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients—I invite you to do the same. You will truly be able to live out the mission of Christ.