Making every moment count: A youth volunteer’s story

Maddy Guy is a volunteer with the Youth Volunteer Connections Program. She began volunteering with the Royal Jubilee Hospital in April 2010 and has volunteered with the Cool Aid Society as well.  Maddy is in Grade 12 at St. Andrew’s High School, and wants to pursue studies in nursing when she graduates.

Maddy has written an inspirational scholarship essay that speaks perfectly to the potential for growth and positive change through volunteering.  Please enjoy a glimpse into a youth volunteer’s experience.

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“We ought to make every moment count, because it may be the last”. This single quote truly sums up my attitude over the past year. I traveled to France last September for an exchange. This was the start of my grade eleven year and I had been feeling stifled, an emotion that I had never experienced. It took me some time to understand exactly what I was feeling and when I finally did, I had no idea what to do about it. Going to France was unforgettable but it didn’t solve my problem.

Returning in November was one of my most difficult experiences to date. It felt as though I was just returning to a life I had grown out of, back to a school that hadn’t changed, and a city that wasn’t challenging me. It is true, I seemed to be drowning in a sea of self-pity, something I refused to realize until nearly the end of that school year.

In April I started working in a volunteer program at the hospital, bringing around books and water to the patients, as well as spending some time visiting with those who requested a friend. It did take me some time, but after about two months I had a revelation. Doing my rounds I turned into one of the corridors, passing the first few rooms of sleeping patients until the fourth or fifth room. There was a tiny woman, we will call her Bertha, surrounded by about six family members, all speaking loudly as if they were at home having a family meal. Immediately, Bertha shushed them and began to ask me questions about myself. Of course the whole family stopped to listen as I described my life. This patient explained to me that her husband had died years before in a car accident; an event no one could have foreseen yet one that changed so many lives. Bertha had grown into the belief that each moment could be the last; informing me that I had to be sure to enjoy what I did, not to just follow a plan for my whole life. She told me to love deeper, to think more clearly and to laugh more often, sounding insanely similar to the Dalai Lama.

After leaving her white washed room, I could not get those words out of my mind. I returned a week later and began my rounds. When I came to that same room I was filled with anticipation, maybe I would receive more advice this week. The patient of room 345 was gone, either she passed on or was just moved; that’s something I will never know. What I do know is that from that point onwards I have been a new person. I saw changes in both my life and school community I had never noticed before. I went searching for challenges, understanding that it wasn’t fair to expect them to fall into my lap. I live every moment I can in the present, learning from mistakes and being fearless.

I don’t believe that spending time doing things that don’t develop new aspects of our personalities is a productive way to live our short lives. We are given so much, and out of thankfulness for that gift I’ve chosen to live life to its fullest. I could die any day and I don’t want to be stuck in a position where I haven’t enjoyed my period on this planet. I plan to love to depths I never knew existed, think more clearly than ever before in my life and laugh a ridiculous amount.

~Madeline Guy, 2010

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