I always start my morning with a 10 minute yoga stretch and morning meditation. I have learned from many years of experience as a R.N., that if you don’t begin by taking care of yourself, you are not able to give your best to others during the day. I then take my shower, eat my breakfast and pack my lunch and out the door for my morning walk around the CAP building and into work.
I review my calendar to see what appointments I have to make, chat with my coworkers, listen to my voicemail, return phone calls, call my participants that I will be visiting or have been unable to visit in the past month. Luckily, today I have time to go into the Operation Sharing warehouse to see what donations came in and what I might find to give to my participants. Today, I was able to find Honey Buns, my participant’s favorite snacks, pull ups, hand lotion, paper towels, toilet paper, and Kleenex. These are always items on my participant's request list. Operation Sharing is a warehouse filled with supplies donated from places such as CVS, Walmart, and other companies. This allows us to hand out supplies to our participants with no cost to them or to CAP. Since my participants have minimal income, this is a great help to each one of them.
Today, I am going to visit an elderly woman who lives by herself and who is almost blind. She leaves all her lights on in the house to help her see, but, is only able to see shadows. She uses a walker and has learned how to deal with this handicap quite well. She has a wonderful sense of humor and a very powerful belief in prayer and in God. Last week, she had 6 teeth pulled and handled it without a single complaint, although I know she was in severe pain. Today, we are going to her orthopedic doctor, as she has a knee that is giving out on her and has fallen in the past. She has this wonderful pastor who calls her almost every day for the past 14 months to have a Bible study with her; now that is dedication on both sides. She also has a wonderful friend, who calls her every night, as they both have trouble sleeping and they talk until one or the other falls asleep. She has a wonderful support team, but they are unable to see each other as her friend doesn’t drive and the pastor lives 60 miles away. I am hoping that on her birthday I can surprise her and take her to see her friend so they can spend some time together.
My next stop will be going out to visit another participant who lives about five miles from my first participant. He lives up a beautiful holler in a one room shack and has been in this home since 1972. He has never had indoor plumbing and has a pump on his front deck, but he says the best water comes down the mountain in a pipe across the street from his home. I like to call him, My Kentucky Weatherman, as he loves to talk about the signs of what the weather will be like if you pay attention to nature. Such as the old wise tales, about the leaves turning up when it is going to rain, or the wooly caterpillars saying what winter will be like. He knows the names of all the trees and plants and I love to hear his stories of the mountains and the rivers. I am just stopping in to visit and he will occasionally ask me to take him shopping. He has the best voice and I love to hear him sing his songs of praise. CAP will be coming in to help repair his home and to give him running water inside his house this summer.
I also cannot forget to describe the hollers. I had never driven down or up a holler until I came to Kentucky and I admit it was rather frightening the first couple times I drove into a holler. A holler is a very narrow road that leads you between mountains and into flatter land where most of our participants live. When I mean narrow, I mean it is a one lane road and if a car approaches you from the opposite direction, one of you has to back up to a safe space in which you can pull over and let the other car pass. Sometimes, you back up a half mile or more around a windy narrow road. I admit I pray going up one holler that I will not meet anyone, so far, the Good Lord has answered my prayers. I’ll always remember one day, I went up a holler that my GPS sent me in and drove almost to the end of the holler until my GPS said my destination was on the right, well, on my right was a beautiful family cemetery and on my left was the edge of the mountain . Luckily, just down the road there was a safe place to turn around. Thank God, that was not my final destination on that day.
My favorite part of being a volunteer in the Elderly Services program is getting to know and spend time with each of my participants. There are days when I transport them to the doctor's office or take them shopping as they have no one who will take them out, but my favorite days are when we can just sit and visit. The stories they tell are so beautiful and yet, many are of heartbreak and such trials and tribulations, you wonder how they survived and still have the faith and trust in God. I shall never forget these wonderful people, who make me feel special because I took the time to listen. They have given me more than I could ever give them. I am so grateful that God brought me to the Appalachian Mountains and for the lessons the mountains and his people taught me of love, courage, strength, and faith. Every day is a new adventure and a new lesson on love.
Kathy is an Elderly Services Caseworker in our Sandy Valley Region. She lives in the Johnson Volunteer House and is a long-term volunteer. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.