So, show of hands. Who likes to be in the hospital?
What, no hands?
Yeah. Here’s the thing: I’ve spent a fair amount of time in hospitals the past few years. And it’s not my favorite place. I’m guessing it’s not yours either. Sure, there are joyful things that happen in hospitals. That’s where I became a mother. That’s where …
I’m out of good things.
So we’re agreed: the hospital is not usually a fun place. Most people there are stressed, upset, and/or in pain.
Which means it’s a FANTASTIC place to spread some sunshine!
Are you in?
Time for our newest weekly service challenge!
I have a LOT of ideas for you this week. Please don’t be overwhelmed – just read through and see if there’s something that reaches out to you. Or you can call your hospital and ask if there’s a volunteer coordinator that you can speak with. Explain that you’d like to help, share a few ideas, and see what they have to say. I can almost guarantee that your call will be very gratefully received.
* When we did the quarter challenge, one of our stops was a hospital. This challenge is easy: just bring some quarters and tape them to a vending machine in a waiting room. (I use blue painter’s tape that won’t leave a big sticky mess behind.) If you want, you can leave a little encouraging note.
* Here’s another fun one that I did last year: flower deliveries! I found a few cute vases at the dollar store, then I went to a local thrift store and picked up a few more. I came home and cleaned them up. (I soaked them in a sink with warm water and vinegar, then sprinkled in some baking soda. It fizzed and bubbled and ate away all of the residue. They looked brand new!) I went to the flower shop and bought several stems of flowers. Then we went to the hospital and delivered them to the maternity ward. The staff members were tickled to see them – they said they’d give them to the mommies whose babies were in the NICU.
* We also visited the hospital when we did the blessing bag challenge. Many people who rush into the hospital might not have had the time or the ability to pack an overnight bag, and a few toiletries to help them clean up can make a huge difference in morale. (Many hospitals have some kind of soap to offer … but after giving birth, I didn’t really feel like washing my hair with “all-on-one soap and shampoo powder”.) We dropped ours off at the maternity ward to be given to new mamas who go into labor suddenly, but you can take them to the ER, or just call your hospital, ask to speak to a volunteer coordinator, and see where your blessing bags might be needed.
* When I went to visit a friend in the hospital a few years ago, I was tickled to see a small group of musicians playing quietly in the hallway for the patients to enjoy. If your family is musical, you might reach out to the hospital and see if you can sing a few Christmas carols. Even if you’re not, you can coordinate a group of friends to go caroling. I did this in college – a group of us went from room to room on Sunday asking if there were any songs or hymns that the patients would like to hear. Almost every person was thrilled to have us there.
* This idea is new to me, but I LOVE it. Have you heard of Jared boxes? It’s very similar to an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, but rather than shipping it internationally, you drop it off at your local hospital. Basically, you take a small box and fill it with little gifts that will entertain a sick child. Put a label on top saying what gender and age group it’s meant for. Then drop it off at a local participating hospital (listed on their website), or just call your closest hospital and ask if they’d be able to use one of these. (My guess is, they’re going to say YES!) I love, love, love this idea. Check out their website for more info and ideas.
* So this is kind of sad, but something to think about. I spoke to a friend who used to work in the NICU and asked what kind of donations the hospital needed. Her answer surprised me. “New baby clothes. A lot of mamas come in to give birth … and then they fail the drug tests. They don’t get to take their baby home. A foster parent is called, but often they don’t have much warning, and these babies don’t even have an outfit to wear home from the hospital.” So here’s the thing: no baby is going to care if they have a new outfit to wear home from the hospital, or a soft cuddly blanket, or a lovey toy. But I care. I care very, very much. If this tugs at your heart too, give your local hospital a call and see what they need. Then hit up some clearance racks for newborn clothes, or reach out to your crafty friends and start making blankets.
* The next idea is perfect for kids to help with, and it comes from the fabulous website Pennies of Time. (If you want to teach your kids to serve, I can’t think of a better site than this one.) Make little busy books for kids who are stuck in waiting rooms! All you need is a coloring book, some Ziploc bags, a few crayons, and a stapler. A few dollars will give you enough supplies to make a lot of busy books. I can think of a few times when I’ve been stuck in a waiting room with kids. I would have LOVED to look over at the pile of magazines sitting on a table … and found one of these to keep them busy!
* My last idea is one that can be done at a hospital, or at an oncology center. Have you heard of chemo care kits before? I discovered this post recently (also on Pennies of Time) and I love it. There are so many thoughtful ideas in here. (For instance, did you know that chemotherapy gives you a bad taste in your mouth, which makes even metal silverware taste bad? I had no idea. Plastic silverware is a thoughtful addition to a chemo care kit.) I have not had to deal with cancer, and I hope and pray that I never have to. But there are many, many people fighting for their lives in oncology units today. This is a great way to lift their spirits a bit – and if you have lost a loved one to cancer, this might be something you can do this holiday season in memory of your friend or family member. (And be sure to read her sweet follow-up story.)
Okay, those are all of the ideas I had for you for this week’s challenge! I hope you were able to find something that resonated with you. This is a tough time of year to be sick and hurting; let’s spread some sunshine this week! If you participate, let me know – I’d love to hear your experiences!