How I discovered gratitude as a nursing home volunteer in Costa Rica

In honor of the 3 year anniversary (it's crazy how time flies!) of my Cross-Cultural Solutions volunteer experience in Costa Rica, I wanted to share an excerpt from the blog that I kept during my time in-country, way back when. Enjoy!

Each day at the nursing home adds a new adventure. The nuns there have taken to us and are spending more and more time with us. Sister Julie Maria asked me on Wednesday if I wanted to try doing everything at the nursing home, to which I agreed. So my first assignment was to report to the home a half hour early to make beds. She joined me and began to show me the specific steps required to ensure that each bed has what it needs for the specific resident who sleeps there. She also took the opportunity to teach me some Spanish, and quizzed me as we worked on each bed. The pressure was intense. As one would expect of any good nun worth her salt, she did not tire of quizzing me and did not give me any breaks. Now I know "primero es una sabana y segundo es un movible, trecero es la covia y fun es la cocha." Es bueno, no?

In addition to helping with the beds, many of us go out and help in the laundry while the residents eat their lunch. In the laundry, I met Sor Diguniro. At first, she wasn't sure what to have me do. She has since figured it out ... in spades! She has had a new, bigger, better project for us each day. On the first day, she rewarded me with some breadsticks out of her own personal stash. On the second day, we were all served a pitcher of fresh mango juice and some crackers. Every day that we work, all of the sisters go on and on about how hard we have worked and how we should go and rest because we deserve it. Their acknowledgement is so genuine and they are so appreciative of us. Their appreciation is striking to me, given that they work like that all day, every day with no days off. What a generous position to take, to view us as working hard, even when we are doing only a fraction of what they do, and will continue to do long after we have gone home. To me, that's gratitude!

Comments

1
(3rd time trying to comment should do the trick!) Great blog post, Mat! It is truly amazing how a simple act such as bed making (which is an afterthought for most here in the US, if it's made at all ; ) becomes an enriching, humbling experience in other countries. The act of service to others with no thought of return or reward not only affects others, but it changes us inwardly. No greater reward that servanthood... The nuns, and those they serve every day, will never forget you, Mat!
Posted at 5:19pm on July 30th, 2013
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