This I Believe

Janice - Charlestown, Rhode Island
Entered on July 22, 2007
Age Group: 65+

After forty years in the workforce, thirty-five spent working as a registered nurse at Rhode Island Hospital, I made lifestyle changes. I relocated to the sea side community of Charlestown, RI from the bustling city of Pawtucket, cleaned my house until it gleamed and finally, indulged in relaxing. While listening to and feeling my body creak and ping back into a state of ease I considered what to do next. Once decompressed, my mind began to look for ways to “give back” to the people of my community and state.

We hear a lot about “giving back”, but I soon discovered it was impossible to do it without receiving more than I was giving. My first volunteer position, conducting a weekly poetry writing class at a nursing home, cemented that belief. A good idea, a writing group, but my class members (who ranged in age from 69 to 100 years old) could not physically write due to infirmities. After some discussion we agreed they would talk and I would write. All had survived The Great Depression and WW2, in which many had served. All remembered where they were when the war ended and how their families survived during times of great sacrifice. Frequently I would sit fascinated by their stories forgetting my duty as scribe until one of these amazing people nudged me. After two years we had accumulated enough rhymed poetry and free verse for the nursing home to print a spiral bound book for sale.

Next, I volunteered for the government watchdog group, Operation Clean Government. The many and varied needs of this organization required a great deal of time and thought. There were meetings to attend, forums to organize and a Candidates School to coordinate along with a myriad of legislation to propose to the Legislature, ethics complaints to be filed and a public to educate regarding state government. After a time I became a board member and helped monitor The RI Ethics Commission. Serving with the other dedicated folks who worked tirelessly to support the cause of good government was an eye opener. After three years I came away with a deep and abiding respect for these folks, many experiences of great adventures, some successes and the ability to organize an event for a few hundred people.

Other volunteer jobs have included wrapping Christmas gifts for a cause, a short stint in a woman’s shelter conducting a writing group, a town parks committee, court advocacy for domestic violence victims (from which I not only learned new and important aspects of life, but also got a job). My current volunteer position gets me sloppy kisses, happy tail wags and the privilege of working with shelter animals.

Try it. What interests you… the arts, music, medicine, the law, state government, advocacy…the list is endless? Volunteer with an open mind and marvel at the delightful surprises in store regarding your own qualities and capabilities. I guarantee you will be unable to give as much as you receive.