The day I graduated as a nurse was one of the most memorable days of my life. The party that my mom and cousins threw that night was awesome. The next morning, at the breakfast table, my mom and I began some serious discussions about the next course of action which was to find a job.
“Mom,” I said, “I wish to work in an old-age home.”
The coffee didn’t seem much tasty to mom.
Why? Join any multi-specialty hospital”, she said, “You will be paid better. These old-age homes will pay you peanuts and”
“I have already decided mom.” I said firmly.
She didn’t reply and started munching her sandwich, as she quietly accepted defeat.
Ashraya – The Shelter was located in the suburbs of the city; far away from the honking horns and suffocating pollution. It was a high-range area – a very scenic place. Though I had a long way to travel from my home to reach here, but still, ‘This is worth it’ I thought in my mind. Getting a placement in an old-age home was not too difficult, because nobody wants to ruin their careers here. Everyone’s mind was set on huge multi specialty hospitals, which can reward you handsomely for your so- called- ‘service’. I know, nobody thinks that working in an old- age home is a good decision. But some decisions can be made only by listening to your heart.
In a matter of seconds, I was alarmed to discover that the environment inside the home was not as pleasant as the view outside. Doom, distress and despair were roaming freely everywhere. All the eyes that I met were dull and lifeless, as if liveliness ends much before life itself. Those dry and cracking lips forgot to smile, long ago. I bet, the inmates don’t even remember when they smiled the last time. My little heart, which was jumping with joy on seeing the marvelous view outside, had all of a sudden jumped into a deep dungeon of gloom.
I turned to see a sweet plump lady wearing the uniform of staff-nurse. She was smiling sweetly. I thanked God for throwing a narrow beam of light on my poor soul which was about to be engulfed by the darkness of this home.
“Are you June D’ Souza – the new nurse?”
“Yes” I said and nodded too.
“Let me brief you about your duties.” She said, “We have two blocks in here. In this block the inmates are nearly healthy with only mild degenerative disorders. But in the other block, all the inmates are bed- ridden. As you have just joined us, you start from this block. After two weeks you will be posted in the other block. And this rotation will continue till you leave this place for a better-paid job.”
“No!” I said as if something jolted up from a deep reverie by a sudden blow. “I did not join this home because I didn’t get any other opportunity. I do really wish to work here and that’s why I took up the job.” I replied honestly.
She seemed to be impressed by my sincerity.
“Great. Pleased to know there are young people like you these days. By the way, I am Christina Jacob – the Head-Nurse. You can call me Sister Christy as everyone here does”.
She shook hands with me and was about to leave.
“Sister Christy” I called out.
She turned back again with that sweet smile of hers and asked, “Yes June, what happened?”
“The inmates here are so sad. All of them.” I shrugged.
The curve of her smile broadened, “You were never being posted to any old-age homes isn’t it?”
“This question is for them to answer. They can give you a better explanation than me.” She said and went a few steps ahead but turned again, “Try to bring back smile, at least on one of those faces, per day. If you can.”
“Yes Ma’am” I said and saluted her as we both smiled.
My first job was to assist the lady in Room 110 – Ms. Sheena to get down the steps, so that she could stroll in the garden. She had arthritis in both of her knees.
“A visit to the garden pumped life in her.” Sister Christy had told me.”Off-course, she can descend the steps with the help of a stick. But a human hand is of much more value to these people than a dead piece of log.”
I knocked at the door.
“Yes” was the reply. As I entered, the lady asked, “Who are you? Where is Mini? It’s time for me to go to the garden.”
“Ma’am, I’m your new nurse. I will take you to the garden.”
“Oh. Okay. What’s your name?”
“No, not the month. Your name?”
“Yes Ma’am. My name is June. June D’Souza.”
“Oh really” She laughed like a little kid. The sun shed the veil of clouds and the bright rays lit up the room. I sent a telepathic message to Sister Christy – ‘Mission Accomplished’. I took her to the garden. We chatted a lot. She told me a lot of things about gardening. Other staff members stared at us as we bonded like long lost friends.
I could not sleep that night. I was so over-whelmed by my new found happiness. I went to my mom’s room and said, “Mom, do you know our earnings are not always in the form of currency notes. Sometimes it is in the form of love, blessings and gratitude. Bringing a smile to someone’s face makes you intoxicated with joy. Piling up a huge amount in your bank can never give you that kind of contentment.”
“You won’t say the same thing when you have growing-up kids.” Mom said, “Mark my words young lady; I have more experience of practical life than you do. Nothing can beat experience. Now, switch off the lights and go to sleep.”