I am in an a cappella group on campus at The College of Charleston, and when HEART's director, Rae, reached out about volunteering for them, I couldn't resist.
HEART is a non-profit in Charleston, SC that allows special needs adults to be creative together. Every Tuesday and Thursday, mentors and volunteers interact with the "Heartists" to help them be artistic: whether this is painting, drawing, singing, acting or dancing. Currently, there are 20 Heartists, each one unique and eager to be creative with each other.
Yesterday was the first day I went to volunteer. As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by friendly, warm hugs by a few of the Heartists. They immediately started asking my name and things about me. Others came up soon after and shook my hand and introduced themselves as well. This interaction wasn't like any other I had received in a long time. So many people today, Millennials and Gen Z in particular, are so absorbed in technology and with themselves that it doesn't occur to them to greet others and engage in conversation so enthusiastically.
A few members brought me over to the drawings they were doing; they ranged from drawings of dogs to paintings of candy canes. As I was looking around at their art, a woman named Rebecca came up to me:
"You're in a cappella? I've always wanted to join a group like that! I've been in a church choir before. What are the requirements? Do I have to be a student?"
I answered her saying that it is required to be a College of Charleston student, but that we would absolutely love to join with the Heartists to sing all together at some time. Her next question is what really struck me.
"I've wanted to try out for certain singing groups in the past but wasn't able to because I have a disability. Do you guys let people with disabilities audition?"
My heart sank. The fact that some groups still discriminate because of disabilities, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. is beyond me. The Charleston Vibes encourage any type of student to come and audition. Our only requirement besides being a student is having a love for music. Questions like Rebecca's shouldn't be asked.
As we moved on to singing together, I couldn't help but feel the joy from everyone's voices fill the room. Rebecca had a solo and sang it perfectly. William, another Heartist, rapped all of the verses of a Macklemore song and didn't skip a beat; his blindness won't stop him.
Volunteers and mentors pride themselves with giving the Heartists the gift of learning and creativity, but really I think that we learn so much more from them. Their warmth and determination inspire me to be a kinder and more motivated person. I thank God that this organization exists, and I cannot wait to volunteer with them more often.