Like most young professionals moving to a new a city, I experienced an overwhelming amount of uncertainty entering into my first career. What am I good at? Will I make friends with my coworkers? How do I find something fulfilling? How can I get involved in Indianapolis?
A few months later, at the beginning of 2015, Vicki Bohlsen shared her thoughts on volunteering at an all staff meeting. She encouraged us to find ways to be involved in the community and revealed new Bohlsen Group policies that would allow us more freedom to do so, such as the option to work from home on Mondays and up to four hours a month out of our work week we can use for volunteering purposes.
With these exciting initiatives, my mind raced through all the things I could offer: time, physical labor or maybe my skill-set in social media. As I sought out opportunities in Indianapolis, one at Ezkenazi Health caught my eye and lingered with me long after reading about it. No One Dies Alone (NODA) is a national program that works to provide support for dying individuals. Each shift gives the volunteer the chance to be a companion for the patient through conversation, holding hands or just be present with them.
My initial thoughts on volunteering are limited to past experiences like working at a food bank or walking dogs at a shelter – while both are incredibly important (and you can learn more about those opportunities here and here), NODA unexpectedly struck a chord with me.
I thought about this opportunity for a while. Do I really have time? Am I going to be affected by being with someone in this state?
I decided to dive in and give it one shot. After attending orientation, I immediately felt like this was something that I needed to try. Fast-forward through some training, paperwork and a flu shot, and I was a hospital volunteer, nervous and humbled to sit with my first patient.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that each vigil is different, and they all have their unique difficulties, but I’m there to share as much comfort as I can. Sometimes I speak and tell them about my life or share positive things going on in the world. I’ve also encouraged them with poetry or a devotional, if appropriate. I also embrace the silence; I’ve learned that silence can be comfortable.
Despite the initial awkwardness or heaviness of the situation, I know this is something that matters. I feel honored to be able to embrace the unknown for a brief time with a perfect stranger.
Because of Vicki Bohlsen’s volunteer initiative and support, I found a rewarding and meaningful opportunity, and I’m able to schedule my shifts more easily, without worrying about any negative impacts on my workweek. I feel encouraged to commit time to myself emotionally, spiritually and for doing what I can to help the community in which I live.
If NODA sounds like something you would be interested in, I encourage you to visit http://www.eskenazihealth.edu/our-services/palliative-care-program/noda