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By Jennifer Richardson
Two of my daughters and I had the privilege of helping out at a senior center recently, and it was such a pleasure. We arrived to a warm welcome and enjoyed conversation with a lovely woman who managed the facility. The atmosphere was lively, colorful, and happy and it was clear that people wanted to be there enjoying it.

My oldest daughter went to the piano and played for a while; filling the room with music as we waited for lunch to be prepared. When she concluded there was an appreciative round of applause for her efforts and many invitations to come play again.

We were generously introduced to the room, and we were happy to participate in the prayer and the pledge before lunch was served.

We took plates filled by staff and volunteers with a delicious meal of pulled pork, black-eyed peas, coleslaw, and candied apples to the tables where the seniors were waiting patiently. Every plate we delivered was greeted with gratitude for both the food and the service with which it was brought.

Once all had been served the girls and I spread out and ate at separate tables to get to know more people. I told my daughters their objective was to be kind, friendly, and come home knowing the names of at least two new friends.

I watched my daughters speak to our most experienced citizens and enjoyed seeing animated conversations bubble up. At my table I was honored to meet Henrietta, Artie, Donna, and Mary who were delightful and welcomed the conversation.

I was quietly thankful to see my oldest sit down at a table where a senior gentleman was sitting by himself. It wasn’t long before they were both smiling and talking like old friends.

There was witty banter back and forth, much laughter, and the sounds of people truly connecting in an environment that was well managed to be welcoming, comforting, and dependable.

Once our meal was eaten, we excused ourselves to help clear the tables, and again we were treated to sincere gratitude for our efforts. The small kitchen was bustling with people helping and they allowed me to take up and apron and help with the dishes. I managed to learn how to run the dishwasher and we were able to reach a good rhythm of rinse, wash, dry and put away.

Everywhere around me people were helping, talking, sharing, and getting excited about the upcoming game of Bingo that was to be played after lunch. Lucy even had a shirt that proclaimed she was “ready for Bingo” with tiny strings of lights twinkling on the front. She was happy to stop and take a photo with my girls.

Soon the last plates, cups and pieces of cutlery were washed and put in their places and it was time to leave. We placed a donation in the box in appreciation for all the senior center does for our community and surrounding areas, and we left the building to a chorus of appreciative thanks and invitations to come back again soon. 

I am sure the donation was appreciated, but the real blessing was ours. We enjoyed serving, we loved the lunch, and we met some fabulous people. The seniors we helped were a great example of patience, manners, camaraderie, and generosity of spirit. But the real gift was the wonder of how service always helps you more than it helps those you serve.

For an afternoon we were able to lift our eyes and hearts off of our own lives and place our attention on the lives of others.

When we find ourselves immersed in things that revolve around ourselves, take a moment and help someone else. There is no substitute for serving, and no life is truly worthwhile without it. Give of your time and talents without expecting anything in return, and the life you will change the most will be your own.

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