As you all probably know by now, I started a 101 Things in 1,001 Days list that I’ve been completing over the past 2+ years as a way to cope with my thyroid cancer diagnosis. My list is random, (but important to me on different levels), but there is a section of my list that has very little to do with me personally (or so I thought). It’s the fact that I wanted to get involved in my community and grow as a person through volunteering and giving back. I believe, that we get back good when we put good into the world… and boy… that absolutely happened today! On my list, I had #23) Do at least 5 different volunteer activities and #24) Volunteer to serve a meal on a holiday at a homeless shelter. I decided that my 4th volunteer activity and where I would serve a meal would be at the Nashville Rescue Mission. This experience gave me things greater than I ever could have imagined.
I figured I’d go, help serve a meal to some strangers that I may never see again, and then I’d go on with my life. I’m an emotional person by nature, but as soon as I came through the door and we met with Joy (whose name was a perfect description of who she is as a person) to discuss what to expect from today, I had a feeling that this was going to be an amazing experience. I started the morning off with tears just thinking about these faces I hadn’t even seen yet and wondering what their stories were. Even still, I completely underestimated the power of taking a couple hours out of my Valentine’s Day to serve others. Joy asked what brought us there today and I gave her a condensed version of why and mentioned my list and some things on it that I wanted to accomplish. After an opening prayer led by one of the residents, the volunteers all got a chance to eat first. Sven (the kitchen manager) was a true bright spot throughout the day. He kept things humorous and light, as he oversaw things in the kitchen. As the other volunteers and I lined up to begin preparing to serve some of the residents, the resident that had led us in prayer started to mention me! I was completely humbled by this. I was grateful that my story mattered to anyone in that room, especially since I was in a room full of volunteers, residents and people whose lives have been changed positively by the Nashville Rescue Mission… (of course, there were tears then too). We went on and began serving food to the residents. During this time, I was handed a handmade “thank you” card filled with encouraging and lovely words from the men that were residents there. *cue waterworks again*. The only words I could even muster up were “Thank you”… These residents had taken time out of their day and whatever was going on in their own lives to make MY day better. As we were serving food to the last few people, another resident came over to me to tell me that he had written a poem about me which he read out loud in front of everyone! (I have video proof of this as well, but I’ve attached a picture of the poem). As I write all of this, it all feels so surreal. I still can’t completely wrap my mind around all of the gratefulness, joy, love and how deeply I felt the presence of God in this amazing facility. I can’t help but think “Why me? I don’t deserve or want all of this attention. This isn’t supposed to be about me! I’m here to help them in some small way.” I feel completely unworthy of all of the love and support that I received from these men that I had never met before today. I’m completely humbled and overwhelmed by all of the emotions I felt from this experience. I thought I was there to make someone else’s day better, but these incredible people touched my life in a way that no other experience ever has in my entire life.
This experience was better than any material thing I could have ever received for Valentine’s Day and is something I will never, ever forget! I encourage each of you to get out there and give back to your community when you can. Do your part to do something small to make the world a better place… You never know whose life might be changed by this. It might just be yours!