Today was one of the days that will stay with me forever. It was one that softened my heart and opened my eyes.
This morning I volunteered with United Rehabilitation Services (URS), a center dedicated to helping people of all ages with disabilities and special needs. One of my sisters has a seizure disorder, so I already have a very large soft spot in my heart for those who have special needs.
But today wasn’t for my sister, Kim–today I wanted to do something special for my youngest sister, Stacy.
After nearly a decade of waiting tables, my sister, Stacy, made a big change and started a new career as an aid at URS–helping adults. She works with them on basic skills and daily living activities that most of us take for granted: eating, going to the restroom, communicating, interacting with others. While she was nervous about this change, seeing her yesterday left me inspired and overwhelmed with pride for my sister.
So, I’d like to do something a little different for my post for today; I’d like to write a very important letter.
Little sister–you should get a box of tissues now…I have a lot to say to you and the happy tears are inevitable.
As your older sister, I always thought it was my job to be a good role model for you, to teach you things, to be the one to help you; however, today you were the teacher…you were the role model and the inspiration to me.
“You can’t understand someone until you walk around in their shoes.” Today I had the pleasure of spending just a few hours in your world–to see what you do everyday, to watch you help others with such incredible grace. I have never been prouder of you. While I’ve always known what an incredible person you are and how big your heart is, today reinforced this more than I’ll ever be able to describe.
I loved the moment you first saw me in the center–the look of shock and complete surprise took over your face…and the tears immediately followed. To me, the very best gifts you could ever give are happy tears and unforgettable memories…and while I was thrilled to give you both of these today, you should know that you gave them both to me as well.
Oh, the memories…
Within just seconds of walking in the room, I knew it was going to be an interesting day.
“Games! Games! Games! Will you play some games with me?” Before I had a chance to even get my coat off, the room quickly swarmed to the front to greet me. Angie was the first. She rolled her wheel chair to a table and challenged me to a game of Go-Fish; we were instantly friends.
And I will never forget Michael. “Can I give you a hug? It looks like you need a hug. There–do you feel better now? How about I give you another hug?” I’m pretty sure he gave me five hundred hugs this morning. And his in-depth analysis of How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, Deal or No Deal, and The Walton’s cracked me up.
I loved that while I was a stranger, to them, I was a friend.
But here were my happy tears…
During lunch, I sat at the table behind you. Micheal was busy explaining why NCIS is the best show on TV and giving me more hugs, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of you.
I sat in my seat quietly watching you. You were feeding a woman who couldn’t speak and could barely open her mouth. You patiently waited for her, you talked to her, you encouraged her. You didn’t just see her disability–you treated her with respect and friendship. I was in awe.
Little sister, you don’t even realize how truly remarkable you are–and that what you’re doing for these people everyday shows more kindness and heart than I’ll ever know.
I said these words to you before I left, but they need to be repeated–I am so proud of you and that you’re my sister.
You are making a real difference in the world–never doubt this.
This was supposed to be my act of kindness–surprising you and volunteering. But the act of kindness today wasn’t from me. No, you were the one showing true kindness–I was just so proud that I got the chance to be there to witness it. And your kindness isn’t just for a 30 day challenge–yours is a kindness and love that’s shown every single day. What I hope to learn from my 30 Day Christmas Challenge, is a lesson that you live by already.
These people have so many challenges–the cards are stacked so high against them, and yet you make them feel special. You make them feel important and worthy. Little sister, I need to tell you this…you’re my hero; you’re the one that I look up to. I only hope to have the patience, grace, and selflessness as you do.
Today you showed me what love looks like.
It takes a very strong person to do your job. After just a few hours, I was exhausted.
So remember this: on days when you’re tired…when you’re frustrated…when someone steals your lunch (I’m still laughing about this), your big sister believes that you are amazing and what you’re doing for these people is so incredibly important.
I say these three little words to you all the time, but I don’t think I can say them enough: I love you. Thank you for letting me “walk in your shoes” today–for giving me a chance to see something that I’ve known all my life…that my little sister is truly extraordinary.
Christmas is a time to tell the ones you love most how much they mean to you…and that’s what I want to do now. Stacy–you have inspired me. While I still think of you as my baby sister, you’ve grown into a woman who is filled with compassion, understanding, and love.
Thank you for being my forever friend, the person who will cry with me and will always be on my side.
I am so proud of you.
And I love you with all my heart.
Merry Christmas, little sister.