THERE'S A QUOTE I really like from the Bible, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (I Cor. 13:13). "Charity" is often defined as "Christian love." And in the New Living Translation, "charity" is translated as "love." Mary Baker Eddy said that Love is a synonym for God, and as God's children, I believe it's our duty to love each other.

I'm a junior in high school now, and starting in eighth grade, I began working on earning a "Congressional Award," which is a four-part US government-sponsored award. One of its components is voluntary service, and so I decided to volunteer at a Christian Science nursing facility. When I first began, I was just there to achieve a certain amount of hours for my award. At first I felt bored and thought there was nothing for me to do. But this quickly changed when I got to know some of the residents there. One day, I was asked to teach the movement/ activities class with the residents and got to play games with them. I also started to share my thoughts with the residents, letting them know they're loved, and praying to see them in the right spiritual light. We would knit, do puzzles together, and talk.

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I helped one woman sort her mail. She did everything in her room and hardly ever left. After several weeks of visiting with her, one day when I arrived, she was sitting in the hallway of her room, in an area with floor-to-ceiling windows. She said that she just wanted to be with people and sit in the sun. We sat there and talked for a while, and I was so moved because I felt it was possible for me to help someone else just by changing my thought.

My favorite thing continues to be just sitting and talking with the residents. I've found that so often, a listening ear is what they want the most. I love to hear what they have to say, and I've learned a lot. Some of the residents used to be in the military, or had learned trades that are overlooked today and have been made easier by technology.

Last year, for school, separate from the Congressional Award, we were asked to do a volunteer project, and I suggested that my group go to this same Christian Science nursing facility. We decided to start a "Game Night." Every Tuesday night for several weeks, my classmates and I played games with some of the residents. We had many choices for everyone, but the absolute favorite was Scrabble. The residents loved to play any kind of word game, and they were really good at it—there was no way my classmates and I could compete with them. We always tried to see if we could win any game, but none of us ever did! It was always fun because during the game we could converse about other things. The residents were always interested in everything we had to say and what we were doing in high school. Talking about what I had going on in my life made me more enthusiastic about each day.

Something from Matthew 10:8 stands out to me, "Freely ye have received, freely give." That's the reason I volunteer with seniors. I've been given so much care and have learned so much that the way I want to give back is by spending time with them.

I used to think I would never have time to volunteer and balance the rest of my busy schedule. Whenever this excuse comes to mind, I think, How could I not have time to love someone? Jesus taught us to love and treat others as we would like to be treated. And also, Science and Health defines time as "mortal measurements; limits" (p. 595). Since we're spiritual, not material, we don't have to be controlled by the limits of time. If you're thinking about giving back by volunteering, I would go for it. The best way to help is by giving love and a listening ear. It's such a rewarding experience.

Anna-Lena Hathaway is a junior in high school. She loves to play water polo, participate in DiscoveryBound events, and hang out with friends and family.

March 22, 2010

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