Community service has always been a priority on my to-do list, and was a big reason we wanted to return to a smaller town. We wanted to be a part of our community, to be involved in its residents, programs, churches and causes. We wanted our children to learn the importance of service, and to have those experiences that would guide them into a service-filled life. One way my daughter has plugged into our community is through Girl Scouts-a great organization that teaches high civic morals and leadership.
This weekend, our Girl Scout troop cooked dinner for the Ronald McDonald House in Fort Worth, the “home away from home” for families of hospitalized children. Through volunteers, the house provides meals for its inhabitants, free of charge. The meal is served at dinner time, then leftovers are labeled and put back in a community refrigerator for those stragglers that come back very late from the hospital. There is an overwhelming sense of family in that house, of understanding, and of cooperation. I can tell you from experience that when you spend hour after hour, day after day, and week after week attending to sick loved ones, the job wears on your spirit and health. This house provides a sense of togetherness and support so intense I think even our girls could feel it. I also know that when you are in the trenches caring for a sick family member, food and dinner are easily forgotten. Things like cafeteria hours or vending machine change seem to be on the bottom of the list. These meals are a gift to those families in more ways than just nourishment.
Our girls worked diligently de-boning chickens, assembling casseroles, cleaning recyclables, and scrubbing dishes. They even wiped down the door handles and chairs as we left. I was surprised by the intensity of their work, and even more so by their conversation during that work. There were a few moments we had to remind them of our objective, and that we were all on the same “team,” but for the most part, they did a fantastic job. On our way out, the manager spoke to our troop, explaining more about how the house worked, and how our service made a difference to the residents. The girls asked a few questions, and came away with the knowledge that their efforts made someone else’s life a little easier for just a moment. I also heard them count a blessing or two, noting their own health and the health of their families. I feel like they really “got” the essence of community service, and how the impact of one can affect the many-something I can say, but an experience like this shows.