A smile. A happy smile from an old lady. She was happy to see me, happy to talk to me, and happy when I said I will come over next week as well (I’ve told her every time I see her that she can count on me visiting her every Tuesday every week, but I guess she forgets… or just wants to make sure). And I was angry when I went to visit her — a phone call from work after hours with questions, accusations, panic, etc. It was my boss, so I answered it, in hindsight I probably should have ignored it — but then I would think until tomorrow what she wanted from me, so is all the same, and that made me angry again.
And then a smile from an old lady when she saw me. Just a small talk, but she was visibly happy that I am there, that I will be there next week and a week after that. She lives alone and relies on me to do her weekly shopping, take out the garbage and talk for a couple of minutes. She is over 80 years old, is hard of hearing, so the conversation doesn’t always go smoothly, but I am patient, try to talk loudly and slowly, and we manage fine. Mrs. Helena (that is her name) can barely walk so going out shopping is impossible. She doesn’t need much, but a weekly trip to the grocery store is necessary. And she makes her grocery list in a wonderfully sweet way — everything on the list in sequence as I will encounter it walking through the aisles of the local store, which is very helpful to me and a very delightful gesture from her. A smile when I was leaving, the same question as every week — “will you be coming over next week too?”, and more smiles when I said yes, of course. I could feel my anger and unpleasant emotions just melting. What happens at work with clowns and idiots around me doesn’t matter, it is something that can be distressing and irritable, but in the end, it barely matters in the fabric of my life.
What matters is that I can be helpful to others and those who need my help are happy with me. To see a genuine smile from another person directed towards me feels so amazing and satisfying! It can change even my worst mood and emotions into calmness and happiness.
Since last November, since I finished my in-patient therapy stay for my addiction, I’ve been a volunteer for the Municipal Family Support Center in my city. I decided to become a volunteer when I was still in therapy. I was looking for something that can help me grow as a person, something that I can do to help others, something where I will be able to give something back. To give back from all the help that I so generously received when my addiction became unmanageable and life-threatening, and I finally asked for support. Without all this help I got, most likely I wouldn’t be here anymore…
My volunteer duties are simple — once a week help with shopping (either shopping for someone from a given list or helping a person with limited mobility to go to the store or a pharmacy), taking out the garbage, going to the attic or a cellar to bring something, moving something here or there or just to talk for a while. It takes about two hours once a week, so it is not a burden on me and not taxing my time. For the last month, I’ve been helping Mrs. Helena (and Mrs. Grazyna — the second woman that I help) every Tuesday and will continue doing it for a foreseeable future. Sometimes I wonder though — who is really helping whom? That smile today made my day and helped me put all that is happening around me in perspective. That smile made me so delighted!