For the past 4 years I have run a local kids community service group. These monthly meetings are a lot of work to prepare for but such a joy to run. We visit a nursing home every other month and then on the opposite months participate in age appropriate service projects. I am a former teacher and these monthly meetings with families fill me up and keep me invested in this important work that I am doing. I love working with children and showing them that they can make a difference in this world no matter how old they are.
Despite the joy that these meetings bring, the day of the event always leaves me nervous and a little discouraged. The day of our meetings, we always have families drop out last minute due to illness, school projects and other commitments. I understand that unexpected events come up and people need to cancel (I have had to cancel commitments last minute in the past) but it is hard to watch the names on my list dwindle down each meeting day. It makes me question why I am working so hard and spending so much time preparing for these events? How do I not disappoint the people we are trying to serve when families continue to cancel last minute?
One day at the nursing home, we only had 5 out of 15 children signed up attend (one was a baby). That particular day we had more seniors come to the party than we had ever had before. I struggled to make it seem like we had more children as I spread them out to three different tables. When I was asked to hold the baby, I paraded him around the room so all of the residents could “ooh” and “ah” at him. I was so tired and exhausted after that meeting, trying to make sure everyone was having a good time despite our low numbers.
Just last week we had 25 children sign up for our nursing home visit. This was an all time record number and only 5 people let me know ahead of time that they weren’t going to attend. The nursing home had forgotten we were coming and so we frantically set up the room to prepare for the largest group ever. In the end, only 7 of the 20 children attended (2 of them were my own). I was so discouraged and I kept one eye on the door for most of the visit (where was everybody?). I was so distracted and upset that I almost did not notice the joy right in front of me.
During that visit, one of the residents could sense my distraction and she invited me to sit with her at her table. She took my hands, looked deep into my eyes and thanked me for always bringing the children. “You all bring the light each time you come and it is so wonderful to see children who want to spend time with their elders!” She expressed her gratitude for these visits over the past 4 years and told me just how much she looks forward to them. “You are doing good work Jessica, you are teaching these kids to be helpers.”
That special lady taught me a very important lesson, a lesson that I should have learned long ago. It does not matter how many children attend our meetings, all that matters is that we SHOW UP to serve. I need to flip my perspective and focus on the good that we are doing, even if we have small numbers. I need to let it go and not obsess over who is NOT there but focus on all the good that is right in front of me.
Showing up to serve is the most important part of what I am doing with this group. Numbers will go up and down but I will continue to put my all into every meeting. I truly believe that children can start to be helpers from the minute they are put on this earth. These children are the light and I will continue to help them find places to serve and shine.