I am 68 years old—and I actually love being older. I celebrate that I am healthy and energetic and that a hip replacement slowed me down only very temporarily. I’m a bookworm, and I can spend hours being quiet. However, I also love talking with people one-on-one and hearing about their lives because every single person has a wonderful story to tell. I work part-time in the office at Partners In Care in Maryland, but I also spend time volunteering with them to transport older people to medical appointments and other important destinations and I’m always inspired by their stories and the stories of the almost-800 volunteers at Partners In Care.
Before I moved to Maryland from Houston, Texas, in 2000, I wrote for newspapers in Texas, and the stories that I loved to write the most and that made me most proud were about “everyday heroes.” I guess that is one of the reasons I like to hang out with volunteers. I love “givers.” Actually, the seed was planted in the 70s when I was in my 20’s. I was in Somalia in East Africa, temporarily living on the upper floor of a hotel. It was evening—almost dark, and I looked down into a dusty alley. I saw a young man walking and carrying a large cot—almost a twin-sized bed—on his head. Later, in the lobby I mentioned it to a friend and she said, “Don’t you know—he was looking for a place to put his bed down for the night?” That planted a seed in my heart to seek opportunities to work to help others have better lives.
Many years later I did my first AmeriCorps year of national volunteer service with Volunteer Maryland in 2005 at Partners In Care, and PIC hired me as a permanent employee afterward. I have tried several times to “retire” but I keep coming back like a boomerang because I never stop being inspired by Partners In Care!
Every year PIC volunteers provide more than 17,000 trips, more than 15,000 hours and more than 150,000 miles. One of my favorite stories of how PIC helps older people is not about me. It’s about “Mrs. K.” She was born and raised in Thailand, moving to the U.S. when she married an American. She learned English as a worker in a restaurant before retiring a few years ago. She cares for her husband who is no longer mobile, but had to also face the issue of her own care after starting chemotherapy treatments in Baltimore. She was not able to get affordable transportation to go from her county outside Baltimore to Baltimore City. Her best recourse was to call Partners In Care. Her driver was one of PIC’s volunteers who doesn’t mind driving in the city. Twice a week the volunteer drove Mrs. K, putting in a seven-hour day. While Mrs. K was in treatment for several hours, the driver waited for her, catching up on reading, emails, and phone calls. After Mrs. K. completed her first round of chemo, the driver took a vacation and made a commitment to take the next round which would commence upon her return. As the driver said, “I don’t consider it an inconvenience, since Partners In Care was there to help me with my aging parents in 1995 when they needed it. I feel like I am giving back. What goes around, comes around.” So my being where I am fits in perfectly with my intense personal interest in hearing people’s life stories (one of my favorite things in the world to do) and my long-term goals to also continue to serve in small ways to make their lives better when I can.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “We can do no great things—only small things with great love.”