Blessed by my Junior Volunteer

Today my 11 ½ year old daughter became a Junior Volunteer at the hospital.  I couldn’t have been more proud as she followed the nurse into the bingo room at 3:25 PM (she wanted to be early!), eager and full of excitement for her first day of “work”.  I knew that her friendly smile and joyful spirit would touch and warm the hearts of the residents she’d meet.  I knew because it’s that same smile and spirit that has touched mine.

It seems like just yesterday that we brought Olesya home from Ukraine.  She was a feisty five-year-old who quickly earned her middle name “Joy”.  Always ready to sing, joke, talk and talk some more, she has brought an exuberance to the family that has both grown and challenged me.  With a personality completely opposite my own, I’ve sometimes struggled with her boisterous, social-butterfly, extroverted self.  But it’s precisely that self that I’ve also grown to deeply love.

It was about a month ago that Olesya came home from The Attic (the local thrift store run by the hospital auxiliary) with the volunteer coordinator’s contact number.  Olesya was interested in volunteering, and had inquired about the process for doing so.  I applauded her initiative, but honestly expected her to quickly change her mind as she tends to “flit” between interests and passions daily.  But, last week she asked permission to call the volunteer coordinator, and met on Monday with her for an interview and orientation.

Did she just want to volunteer at The Attic for a weekly “excuse” to go shopping at her favorite store?  Was she just hoping to get “first dibs” on all the good merchandise at the thrift store?  I asked her those questions, and was touched by Olesya’s answer.  “No Mom, I’ll work wherever they need me.  I really just want to learn what it’s like to have a job and to practice working so when I’m old enough to get a regular job I’ll be ready!”

As I picked her up from the interview and orientation, she shared all that she had learned and done.  I heard about red tape across doors, special hospital codes, and Junior Volunteer protocols for getting someone a pillow.  “And then, guess what Mom?  After I volunteer eight hours, I get a coupon for $3.50 to spend at the hospital cafeteria.  It has pizza and soup and sandwiches and drinks…it’s like a regular restaurant!  I can use it all myself or Miss Colette (the Volunteer Coordinator) said I can bring a friend.  Do you know who I was thinking I could bring?  I want to bring you, Mom!”

If you don’t know Olesya, you might think she was just saying that to make herself look good.  But she’s as authentic as it gets.  She’s the same girl that wrote “I love Mom” in the dirt across the side of our van.  She’s the same girl that was already fully dressed this morning in her Junior Volunteer uniform, beyond excited for 3:30 to finally arrive.

That is Olesya Joy.  How blessed indeed I am to be her Mom!