This year, I am completing a year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps in Savannah, GA. (Savannah, Georgia – What could be better? I ask myself this every day!)
In the process of applying and committing to this organization, I had many visions about what my year of service would look like. I was ready to live with people who are underprivileged, interact with minorities, and live a very simple lifestyle. In many ways, this is what I am doing, but I am also living in a way I never expected.
I am living in an amazing two-person community, in an incredible house, in the most hospitable city. I can honestly say, I am so incredibly happy with my life. On a daily basis, my work consists of being a Community Outreach Worker for adults with disabilities. What does that even mean? Well, good question. I have about 7 clients I see on a weekly basis and my goal is to help connect these clients to the world around them, spend quality time with them, and ensure all their needs are met.
My ‘clients’ are no longer just clients. They have turned into my friends, my support system, and even my family. In this past year that I have been working with them, they have taught me more than I could ever have imagined. Going into service, one often thinks:
‘I am going to help the people around me, I am going to change the world, and I am going to make a difference.’
What one may not realize is that the opposite happens. My ‘clients’ have helped me more than I can ever explain. They have changed my life and made a difference in who I am and how I see the world. My clients have truly turned a light switch on in my head that allows me to see the important things and see the things I may have never noticed. Through them, I have realized I take many things for granted.
The 3 Main Things That I Have Taken For Granted…
Weird one, right? Never before have I thought about the power and strength one holds in the two limbs that allow them to walk, run, and even dance. My legs were always just part of my life that weren’t leaving. This year, I attempted my first half marathon. My training went amazingly well and I was 100% confident in my ability to run the whole race in 2 hours. Well, things do not always go as planned! On the day of the race Savannah weather, of course, ended up being 85 degrees with 100% humidity — in November. Yes, it was hot, and yes it was miserable. I ended up going significantly slower than I ever imagined. Crossing the finish line, I was not happy with my results, I was tired and disappointed.
Ten minutes after I crossed the finish line, one of my clients called me and told me that he was there and that he was in the front row for the concert to follow the race. I hurried over, and right as I saw him // in his wheelchair// I stopped, looked at my legs, and thought ‘Wow, these two legs just carried me 13.1 miles.’ Why, was I complaining? Why do we complain when our legs are sore or when we have to walk one extra block – we have capable legs!
What do I want to do today? Where do I want to go? Who do I want to hang out with? We have the option to make choices in almost every aspect of our life. This year has truly made me cherish these everyday choices and decisions that I have the freedom and ability to make.
My clients have no options for choice. They eat what is served, and that’s if they are not on a feeding tube. They leave their place of residence maybe once a month and it is most typically for a doctor’s appointment. They do the same activities day in and day out because most do not have family, friends, or advocates to help change their routine.
Putting choice in someone’s life gives them purpose and makes them feel part of society. Choice is so powerful and so overlooked.
Yes, I have always loved to laugh and probably do so too often, but the power of a laugh is different than a slight giggle. When I am with my clients, my life is complete. These pictures say it all: “Life is worth living as long as there is a laugh in it.”
Abby Rieker: Savannah, GA