This I Believe

Alicia - webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I Believe Essay

“Excuse me dear, care to entertain an old lady with a game of chess?” Turning around, I faced an aging woman in a sea of deep red —shiny burgundy curls that still has a youthful bounce to them. Looking at her wide, royal blue eyes, I smiled and nodded. She pointed her finger, delicately sprinkled with age spots, in the direction of the chessboard she had ever so carefully set up.

I have to admit, I dreaded the two days out of the week when our volunteer group would go to visit the elderly living home. Because conversing with the elderly isn’t normally what I would consider a good time, I thought this would be the dullest part of my summer with the YMCA volunteer program. Upon arrival at the large living facility, we were told to spread out and try to connect with the elderly residents. I soon found myself seated with this intriguing woman, ready to connect. Much to my surprise, the conversation between us flowed so easily that she could have been one of my close friends.

I began to ask the woman about her hobbies and her family, and she informed me that before her husband died they owned many horses and that was mainly their life. The woman’s cerulean blue eyes shone with emotion as she recalled her love for her horses, her mouth curving into a smile as she rattled off the names of all five of them: Amber, Flo, Savannah, Monty and Jewel. She told me all about her husband, how they met, their extravagant wedding —— even his untimely death. This woman told me about the only man she ever loved, and how when I grow up, I will too fall into a great love, like she had. She told me to never settle for the losers that aren’t going to treat me right, and that I would know when the right guy came along. She told me that I was beautiful, and kind, and I deserved to be happy. When I brought up her children, the twinkle in her eyes slightly faded as she looked down. She told me that they moved away when their father died and didn’t visit her very often. She missed them so very much, she told me. Feeling a slight tug at my heart, I had the urge to reach over and hug this woman I had known for such a short period of time. I told her I would continue to visit her and her bright red lips curved back into a playful smile. “Checkmate,” she said gleefully. I had almost forgotten we were playing our game, having been so deeply engrossed in our conversation.

I visited this woman as I had promised, and each time I saw her, she would tell me a new story, even crazier then the last. I had my suspicions about her exaggerating her outrageous tales, but of course I would not dare question their validity. She spoke in a lovely, soothing tone and would recall memories of her adolescent years, her rocky, yet beautiful marriage, and of her children’s many past accomplishments. This woman taught me more then most people that I know, and most of all she taught me to stay true to myself. I had some better conversations in that stuffy senior living home then I could have around my lunch table in the cafeteria with my friends, or anywhere else for that matter. In the beginning I felt disappointed with what I would be spending my time on, and as it turned out I found great happiness talking to the elderly.

I came back once after the program ended, searching for that head topped off with fire engine red curls, but it was no-where to be found. While questioning a nurse on duty, I was informed grimly that my friend had passed on. Fighting back the flood of tears that were trying to burst through, I truly realized how much happiness this place had brought me that summer. This woman gave me the power to have a more positive and optimistic outlook on life. She showed me there was great happiness to be found everywhere, even in the most unlikely places. My experiences with her allowed me to believe even if you may think that something sounds lame, or not worth your time, you should give it a chance, and you may find that you will get satisfaction and happiness from an unexpected place.