At Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA), VOCARE is a Salvatorian Service Program that immerses the entire senior class for two weeks of service in the local community. Service sites include central city schools, elder-care agencies, and organizations that provide training/work opportunities for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Today we share reflections on their experience from two of the members of the class of 2017.
Emily N. – Catholic Charities
During VOCARE, I learned to listen to my heart instead of my mind. I realized that even more important than the correct response, is responding with love and respect.
One of my favorite days during the first week, my heart told me to visit with C., who is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. She spends most of her day sleeping. When awake, she is usually having a hallucination, and will not know who you are. C. has no family. Since her sister passed away, she has been living in a group home. The only visitors she gets are her hospice nurses. They do the best they can to spend time with her, but they can only do so much before they have to leave.
I decided to see what would happen if I sat down next to C. and talked to her. While I introduced myself, I placed my hand on top of hers in hopes that she would notice there was someone with her. After I had exhausted what I thought were the possibilities of small talk, she started to tell me stories. Rather dramatically, she told me she didn’t get anything for Christmas. I was heartbroken to realize that she may have been forgotten if she really doesn’t have family. I asked her if I could give her a hug for Christmas. She was so excited that someone was willing to spend time with her and give her a hug. In this moment, I realized that she really isn’t any different than I am. She just wanted to be loved. We didn’t say much after this, but I held her hand and looked at her beautiful blue eyes. In the silence, I read her shirt: “Do small things, with great love,” my favorite quote from Mother Teresa. I knew C.’s shirt was not a coincidence, and took it as a sign that I was doing the right thing. As VOCARE progressed, I found myself in more situations like this one because I listened to my heart.
As I go on with life after VOCARE, I take with me many stories. And while I know the memories will fade, I hope the lesson I learned will never go away.
Cathy T. – St. Anne’s Intergenerational Day Care
Before starting my VOCARE experience, I have always sympathized with people who have special needs. However, I only realized after VOCARE that people with special needs don’t need sympathy. They want empathy. They want a friend.
During my VOCARE experience, I met this wonderful lady named J. J. is blind; however, you would have not known she was blind with her big and joyful personality. Every single day, J. would want me to teach her some words in Vietnamese and she would tell me her life’s adventures. J. is an inspiration to me. She helped me realize the similarities between me and everyone that I served. I got to see that they were just like me. In fact, they are even better than me. These people see and appreciate the little things in life.
I am no longer the same person. The Cathy now standing in front you is different than the Cathy two weeks ago. I learned the importance of being patient, open minded and optimistic. These traits will not only lead me to success but will make me a better person.