April 2 marked Autism Awareness Day. Many people may not even know that a day such as this exists in the first place. However, I had the pleasure to serve those who this day is dedicated to over the past weekend. At Emory & Henry College, we are fortunate to provide River's Way (a special needs organization) a location to host their respite weekend programs as well as day programs.
While waiting for campers to arrive to be greeted by staff and volunteers (like me) a girl walked up to me. She had attended our last event and had seemed to enjoy herself last time and seemed to open up so I was delighted to see her smiling face approach me. After exchanging greetings, the camper began to search in her bag and retrieved an object. It was a bracelet. Thinking that she was showing me some jewelry she liked, I complimented her and told her how much I liked the bracelet. To my surprise, she wasn't showing me a bracelet, but giving it to me. To my shock, I asked her again if it was for me and she said that it was and that she had made it for me the past night. She read me the bracelet saying " From Caitlyn to my BFF Melody."
She couldn't stop smiling as she gave over her creation and neither could I. I doubt that she will ever even know how much that bracelet truly means to me. Not simply for the fact that I got a bracelet, but for the meaning behind it. To me, this signifies that my service is making a difference in someone else's life. It means that she trusted me enough to open up to me during these events. She felt comfortable enough to be herself around someone who is a complete stranger. However, here we are after two events together and she considers me her BFF. Not to mention, she spelled my name right! I've had teachers who could never spell my name right!
Her kindness and friendship have inspired me to be a better person. Everyone always thinks that the volunteer is the person who serves, but so many people forget how much the volunteers are being served through their service. The interactions I've had with Caitlyn and with the others in this program have cultivated the woman I am today. In them, I see kindness, friendship, humanity, spirit, and the way this world should be. If even half of the adults in this world could be like Caitlin or the other campers, then man, how much better of a place would we live in?
Caitlin is the very reason I serve. Not to receive homemade bracelets (I do love those, though!), but to meet lovely people such as Caitlin and to help improve their day which hopefully translates into their life. No matter the age, condition, or differences we may face I have never learned more about what it means to be the same, to be human than through service. At the end of the day, we all bleed the same. How beautiful the world would be if we acted like we did.