A Volunteer ponders on their Volunteering Experience

This month we hear from our volunteer Vern, about her volunteering experience with Volunteer Link.

What have I learned from visiting Janet, 90, no family and with sight and mobility problems?

I have learned about London during the blitz. Listening to her describe spending the night in an Anderson Shelter: crashes outside, not knowing if your home will still be standing when you come out. Water and condensation dripping down the walls, onto your bed. Freezing cold in winter.

I have learned that pavements are treacherous: sudden gaps in the paving stones can cause stumbles. The pavement slopes steeply and accessing the crossing in the rain can be slippery.

I have learnt you can survive losing your whole family, survive loneliness and disability with stoicism and sheer resilience. You can keep going despite illness, disability and heart-break. You can be grateful for little things. Truly, it has shifted my perspective; encouraged me to be grateful for the little things, and appreciate family, friends get a sense of proportion over difficulties I face. We don’t discuss my problems of course, but her grit and resilience is awe-inspiring and encourages me to feel grateful for what I have.  Don’t think it’s all gloom and doom, we laugh and joke as we go shopping. Her observations in the supermarket are priceless! Who knew people still bought processed peas? I have learnt to search for the perfect bread roll. Who knew?

I have learnt about growing vegetables: with her advice I have planted seedlings, and am growing a range of vegetables. She misses her allotment that she can no longer work because she can’t get down the two flights of stairs on her own.

I have learnt that you can laugh at little things and smile at people who promise to visit but never do. 

I have learnt you can shop without a list and remember information without putting it in your phone or on paper.

I have learnt how to survive the apocalypse; two freezers with everything you need to survive in case no-one can take you out shopping. Some things I doubt you’re meant to freeze but it all goes in. 

I have learnt to avoid all waste, to save and re-use, to value little treats.

My world view has broadened. We don’t always agree, and I keep my mouth shut but learn to understand how and why people’s experiences lead them to see differently from me and I have learnt not to judge.

We have a good relationship: she has broadened my horizons and I have learnt to be grateful and value what I have. She is a window on the past, another perspective on the present and I am so glad I got involved in Befriending. I have gained so much from Janet, I have learnt you can survive the unthinkable and enjoy the little things.

I am so glad I took the plunge and volunteered. I thought I was helping others and seem to have helped myself. Who knew?