The Act of Giving Back

Kavya ShahFebruary 12, 2020FulfillmentHelping Hands

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." –Mahatma Gandhi

Being happy and satisfied with what we are doing is imperative to living our lives fully. The concept of helping others and gaining happiness from seeing a smile on another’s face is often what parents want their children to realize. Being happy yourself is not enough; you must spread it, in the largest manner possible.

“Doing good,” along with doing well, is something my school focuses on: the idea that I should be supremely grateful for the privileged life I am leading, and therefore should do my level best to help others that are in need. We understand the fact that several people lead a grim life, where basic necessities are not available and “living” is a task.

The elderly are often neglected, and to a certain extent unwanted. Stories of how children deserted their parents, how they were sent away from the homes where they reared their children, are not uncommon. Few members of society choose to commit to the task of helping the elderly cope with old age.

To give back to society, every Saturday, I, along with a few of my classmates, go to an old age home, Suvarna Mandir, to spend time with its residents. At first, it was a pain, and I did not understand the importance of my role at the old age home. It was just another thing I had to do because my school forced me. I never gained satisfaction or happiness after spending almost two hours there every week.

After around three months of visiting the home, I became close with a few grandparents, and the stories of how their children left them in this place filled me with sadness. After a Garba (a form of Indian dance) celebration with the grandparents, we were taking pictures and playing house, when one grandparent broke down and started crying. My friend and I did not know how to console her, when she told us her story.

Her story was a rather sad one; she was suffering from paralysis, had a dysfunctional hand, and the other people made fun of her. Her children never contacted or visited her. The thought of suicide had come into her mind several times. She was unable to talk properly, and rarely got out of bed. She was uneducated, and understanding her plight melted my heart completely. I did not know what to say, so my friends and I listened to her talk. She then gently smiled and said that the only thing she looked forward to in the whole week was when we would come to the home to play and interact with the residents and make them feel part of this society. She said that, because of us, she felt hope in life. It was at this moment that I realized the gravity of the impact I was making on the lives of the elderly. The fact that an old lady decided to reject the thought of suicide because she found her grandchildren in my friends and me helped me realize the degree to which my interactions have helped her. It helped me identify how much I had grown since I first joined Suvarna Mandir. I had become responsible and someone who could change mindsets and tackle difficult situations.

At this moment, I felt immense happiness and that I was part of something larger than myself. The fact that I helped an old lady smile, and look forward to life, despite not having anything, is what changed my perspective.

It was not just this moment that helped me understand the impact I was making. When I first joined the old age home, barely 7-10 grandparents would voluntarily come forth to attend sessions. As time passed, the number of grandparents gradually increased to 18-20 each session. As more and more people started looking forward to coming and meeting us, I felt satisfied and happy. My transition from being wary of submitting myself to this experience to looking forward to going there every Saturday has been amazing, and I hope to keep on giving back to society.

Now, every Saturday, I look forward to going to Suvarna Mandir to talk with the people there, play games, and just have fun. Even though they are adults, they need some joy, fun, and laughter in their lives. Be it playing house or shooting the cups or karam, every interaction shows a sparkle in their eyes, which travels to our own. We plan every session with them, trying to make them play something new and do something challenging, like playing a modified version of jenga or bingo. After every session we distribute chocolates to them, which makes them feel happy, knowing that someone cares for them. Seeing them so excited and happy truly warms the heart.

After every session, I feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Just seeing how energetic and enthusiastic the grandparents can be, despite life giving them every reason not to, is what inspires me.

The elderly are so strong and brave; they are able to face every day as a challenge. Despite knowing that they are near the end of their lives, they try to live it the best they can. Just spending those two hours with them every week inspires me to keep going.

The prospect of fulfillment is not only in doing good for others, but also in learning and being happy. Often helping others does more good for you than the other person, as in my case. I have learnt to be prepared, improvise, initiate conversations, learn when to talk and when to listen, but most importantly, I have learnt to respect. I have a lot more to learn and many skills to hone. Hopefully, in the next two years I will be going to this old age home, I will not only be able to become close with its residents, but also become a better person at heart. I have learned how, when at a point a person loses hope, something can happen to renew your faith in life. Going to old age homes every Saturday has helped me learn to be more confident, a better leader (when I conduct sessions and address the group), more articulate (in Gujarati), and a better human being. The act of giving back to society is indeed a special one, and I am proud to say that I do!

Kavya Shah is a 16 year old, with powerful opinions and an inclination towards the literary crafts. She studies at the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India and loves exploring and unveiling new possibilities and avenues. In her free time, you will find her with her nose in a book, or spending time with those she loves and cares about.