Pumpkins and a Phone

I cannot believe it is almost the end of October and that I have officially been in Asheville for over two months now. It is starting to finally feel like fall, the summer heat has gone and now we have the changing of colors on trees and lots of rain. I am reminded of the verse we had at my church camp for the summer camping season of 2007, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 “for everything there is a Season and a time for every purpose under heaven”. This is really what the Young Adult Volunteer experience is really all about. It is about being in a season of discerning learning and figuring what is your purpose. What is your purpose right now, next week, a month from now or even a whole year from now and to each person it is going to be different.

My purpose right now is to be an engaged member of several different types of communities while I am here in Ashville. I have my work placement site at Habitat, Brooks-Howell Home, Grace Covenant Church, Circle of Mercy Church, the other YAV’s in my apartment, and finally Asheville, North Carolina as a whole. Each one can stand together on its own and be its own little world. Some communities for me I have people that overlap into several places and I may see them in more than one place, even several times throughout my week. The places I have been to have now become part of my family for the next year and long after I am gone. In this post I want to talk about two different experiences I have had in my different communities so far. It’s a cold and wet morning I get to my site and unlock the doors, turn on the lights and go to my desk. I set down my bags and turn on my computer. I smile, take a breath from walking to the building from the bus stop and for the next 30 minutes or so I say ‘’Good Morning” to my coworkers as they enter the front and back doors to the building going to their respective offices to begin another day of work. I wait for the phone that sits on my desk to ring. Once it sounds, I pick it up not knowing who is going to be on the other end. The next 20 minutes I am invited into the world of a complete stranger, who I may never meet in person. It was cold rainy Thursday morning just at 10 am when I took this call. I answer with “Asheville Habitat, how can I help you today?’ in my most cheerful phone voice. On the end of the line was a woman who wanted to know if Habitat could help her with her home and some repairs that needed to be done on a fixed income. I filled her in on the Habitat Home Repair Program and asked if she would like me to fill out a blue contact card with her over the phone. I asked her routine questions -name, phone, address, what type of work was she needing assistance with, etc. She tells me that she is on SSI and has no were else to turn to and hopes that we can help her fix her home so she can stay in it longer. She asks me what my name is and how long I have worked with Habitat. I told her 9 weeks and that I came from Michigan. We talked for a few more minutes as I am filling out her contact card. The other phone lines light up with other incoming calls that are quickly taken by other staff and I have notes dropped off at my desk for projects to do once I am off the phone. We chat a little bit more about the difference in Michigan weather and North Carolina and she tells me how beautiful Asheville is during any season. We wrap up our call and I tell her to have a good weekend and that I would pass her card off to the next step in line for the Repair Program. I know you’re asking Yourself, “but Deanna what was your purpose in taking a 20 minute phone call when you had so many other things that were starting to pile up”. My purpose was to just listen and let this women share her story. I could be the one person she speaks to today and has a meaningful conversation with. I will admit I have been jealous of the relationships/community my other roommates in Ashville have been making at their sites getting to share meals with the people they are serving, having meaningful conversations on a daily basis and seeing the same people week after week or even from day to day in person and getting to put a name to a face. I am building community even if it is not face to face. I still have made some sort of difference in someone’s life even if it did through a little black phone that sits on a desk.

This past weekend I was helping out with the Friday afternoon activity at Brooks Howell, pumpkin carving and decorating in anticipation for Halloween which is coming up very soon. We have one resident who never talks but she often comes to activities and sits and watches before drifting off to sleep. She is one of my favorite residents at the home, because she talks with her eyes, that are so sweet and round and still so full of life. She will track and follow you for a little while and can sometimes nod when asked a question. She is always in her wheelchair and has a blanket on her. When doing the activity she was wheeled up to next to me and I just started taking to her telling her that I was going to decorate my pumpkin with colorful crepe paper instead of cutting into it. I had all the rolls and just started naming all the colors and holding them up for her to see. I explained that I was going to cut them into squares and make a patchwork quilt on my pumpkin. I told her about the weather while I cut my many squares of thin paper. I then started gluing on my squares of paper and making a design. I then started asking what she thought of this yellow square going next to a red square that was by a blue square and if they would look nice together in a row. She just looked at me with those beautiful eyes and did a little nod. After a couple more minutes she was sleeping sweetly next to me with her oxygen humming ever so faintly behind her wheelchair. The next 30 minutes I worked on my pumpkin but always looking over at her to make sure she was okay and taking to myself about the color pattern on my pumpkin. During clean up I said goodbye to her and I would see her next week’s activity as the CNA wheeled her away to get ready for dinner. My purpose on this day was just to make a sweet older lady feel included; that someone cared about her and that even though she can’t talk she is still a beloved Child of God. I never thought that having a mostly one sided conversation would bring me so much joy and happiness. Just me talking about which color of paper I should put next on this orange pumpkin. Sometimes it is the little things in life that make you think about what is your purpose in life.

My challenge to all of you back home, fellow Young Adult Volunteers, and anyone who reads this blog. Think about this question and do some self-reflection.

What is your Purpose?

Thank you for your prayers for this year as it goes on. Thank you for the phone calls and video chats.

I have not yet reached my 4,000 fundraising goal yet for my year of service. Please donate if you feel called to do so. Every donation helps support my year in Asheville. My roommates and I are working very hard for each one of us to hit our individual goals before Christmas time. Make sure to put my name in the memo line so I can receive credit toward my goal https://www.handsandfeetavl.org/donate

Deanna McDonnell

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