My volunteer experience at Little Sisters of the Poor
By Anna Wilgenbusch
Praised be Jesus Christ! My name is Anna Wilgenbusch and I have had the privilege of volunteering at Little Sisters of the Poor for the past two years. I was drawn to Little Sisters after visiting their Home in Mobile, Alabama, and witnessing their amazingly counter-cultural view of the value of every human life and the Sisters’ remarkable hospitality.
This summer, I have been working on a project in which the Residents, usually those who are completely dependent, write poetry. Many Residents immediately denied that they could do such a thing when I presented the idea to them, but they all soon proved themselves wrong. For many Residents, it was helpful to provide them with a first line, such as “If I was a little girl,” or for the Residents to randomly select a topic from a list that might be “sunsets” or “my favorite food.” The Residents dictated the lines to me while I helped by asking them questions about the subject and we brainstormed rhymes together. The Residents never failed to surprise me by coming up with the most creative rhymes and titles for their poems!
Through writing poems, Residents and I have had the most amazing conversations that wouldn’t have been possible without the medium of poetry. I have listened to a Resident happily recall her mother making dumplings and I also have heard a Resident explain that she was a valuable player on a boys’ baseball team. This project gives testimony to the fact that each person, no matter how old, is a fascinating wealth of knowledge and memories.
Along with writing poems with the Residents, I have found a meaningful ministry in sharing my violin music with those living at Little Sisters of the Poor. Music is proven to have a profound therapeutic effect on the brain and I have certainly witnessed that. I love to see Residents with memory loss recall their mother or father playing violin after I play, or other Residents smile during a song despite their illness.
Although writing poems and playing the violin for Residents has been so enjoyable and memorable for me, I hope that the one lasting effect of my volunteer work is for each of the Residents to know that they are loved and worthwhile other’s time. I hope that this project testifies to Little Sisters of the Poor’s message that since each life is infinitely valuable to God, they are infinitely valuable to us as well.