Give and Take – Reflections from a Volunteer

My SILO story started out as me doing a friend a favor and giving her a ride to a free meal.  I didn’t know then how free Pizza would change my life.

As I stated my first interaction with SILO, was me offering a ride to a patient/friend to which I provided home care. She asked if we could go to a SILO outing where they were offering a free meal.  This person being home bound for the most part only gets out for doctors’ appointments, physical therapy and the occasional outing if her health and the weather is good.  I thought sure, the weather is nice, it’s just in town and we could all use a day out.  I didn’t know what to expect and was a little confused when I arrived. As I was unloading her wheelchair from my car, a gentleman (now known as my friend Andrea) approached and offered to help. In fact, he insisted on helping and proceeded with wheeling her in, helping her find a table and keeping her company while I moved my car. When I walked in I was greeted with a warm welcome and asked to fill out a name tag.  As I looked around the room I saw some of the towns’ richest and poorest residents, those homeless and those blessed, some facing many challenges and some looking for companionship, others eager to develop new friendships and find ways to help their fellow neighbors. It was a community within the community.  I didn’t realize what all these people had in common.  I talked to people I knew, met new people, enjoyed food and fellowship and knew from that moment I wanted to be involved.

I spoke with Melissa on ways to help.  Instead of asking for immediate donations or help she said, “Just experience us. See what we are all about, and if it is something you want to be a part of ask again.” This too caught me a little of guard. I asked myself, “Why didn’t she just ask me for money? Why don’t they have a donation jar?”  Then I realized it is much more than a charity organization, it is much more than a free meal.  It is a living entity. A group full of love, compassion, spirit, growing organically to create an environment without pre-conceived notions, without judgement, with only the intentions to help. To help by providing food, friendship, companionship, clothing, rides, a listening ear, a gentle smile, or by putting new people in contact with each other so that growth can begin somewhere else. 

I continued to bring my friend to the meals and started donating drinks, snacks and craft supplies that they would use at the meals.  I later started to volunteer in preparing and serving the meals. I started to volunteer and help with work projects, handing out invitations, and offering to give people rides.  It felt good to be helping.  It felt good to give back. I was looking forward to doing more.

Then one August morning the girls and I were headed out to start our day.  I was going to take them to their grandparents while I went to work.  Only a few miles from our driveway we were run off the road.  As our car went up the embankment and began to roll back down our lives were changed.  After three and a half rolls we landed on the passenger’s side. The car was totaled. The kids were in shock and I was pinned in the vehicle. We were all taken by ambulance to the hospital.  A few days later we began our recovery.  The kids bounced back quickly. Having sustained a severe concussion, along with other injuries I was unable to work, unable to drive, conversations were hard to maintain and all I wanted to do was sleep.  As weeks passed money was getting tight, food was getting scarce and the temperature was dropping. I hadn’t told anyone of my declining situation and increasing need.  The situation began a depression.  One I still fight today.  I remember sitting on my fire place trying to get warm as I had now been out of work for a few months and could no longer afford heating fuel. I sat there and cried, blamed myself for not being able to feed or keep my children warm, not being able to engage in activities with them as my brain and body were still healing and pleading with God that they deserved better.

One afternoon I received a knock on my door. It was Melissa. She arrived with groceries, things for the girls and little donation to help us get through.  This was more than an answer to my prayers. This was an even bigger spiritual gift. An act of selflessness, generosity greater than I deserves, a restoration in my belief in humanity. A group of kind people helping us only because they knew we needed the help and because they could.  They asked for nothing in return, no additional volunteer hours, no additional donations, only that we get better and know they were thinking of us.

 As summer turned to fall and fall to winter I was still not cleared by my doctor to work. I was now unable to work for 6 months.  I shared my story at the Snowball.  I shared of my need and the love I received.  A very kind and generous attendee at that event noticed that we were still in need and helped by providing us with heating fuel that February. I could finally keep my children warm. I could finally let them sleep in the house instead of at the neighbors. I started to feel hope again.

In all I was out of work for 11 months.  I went through my savings. I cried myself to sleep a lot and it was months of painful healing.  But we were ok, we made it and we were closer as a family because of it.  But it was more than that.  I learned to be resourceful, conservative, and grateful for my blessings. I learned not to take the precious little time I have with my children for granted. Those two unexpected but life changing, generous donations from my SILO friends taught me about the type of person I wanted to become. A person to give freely, without judgment, without expectation. A person to just do good because I can.

As I healed and returned to work, I returned to volunteering. Despite my absence I was welcomed with the same warm greetings, accepted, appreciated and now a part of that special community within a community.  I am still growing.  I am still working on being that person.  As life throws me challenges, my participation varies.  But I always have a home with SILO. I have friends with SILO. I have a family in SILO. 

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