As a lifelong volunteer I was shocked the first time I volunteered with the High Tea ladies. I’ve done many “feel good” and “make a difference” service projects over the years but this experience was like no other. It’s almost too hard to put into words what this volunteer role does for your soul, but I’m going to attempt it.
Being on 7 Yellow brings a myriad of emotions. You might walk in one room and find the illest of patients who appear they are fighting with their last breath. And then you walk in the next room and despite the patient getting chemo right then and there, they greet you with a smile and exude a beautiful appreciation for life. And of course many patients fall somewhere in between. Just like those of us who aren’t battling cancer, these patients have good days and bad days. As a High Tea Volunteer it becomes your hope and desire that you can help make this particular day one of their good days. It is not about the rose you bring them or the tea and pastry you offer; it’s about your presence. Many look forward to the weekly drop in of a High Tea lady in her pink apron. They greet you with the most humble appreciation that warms your heart.
And then there are the families. Much of what we do as volunteers goes beyond the patients. Certainly those that battle the cancer have it the worst, but for the family members standing there day in day out it is terribly hard. Caregiving is exhausting and having our weekly program brings a small relief, outlet really, to our regular family visitors. They can come to the waiting lounge and hear Jean Warnick’s beautiful piano playing or John Morgan’s amazing skills on the guitar. We offer a safe place where they can try to take a minute for themselves and relax, sometimes cry, and just breathe. As High Tea ladies we are there with tea and pastries of course, but also for a listening ear or friendly conversation when that’s needed. Sometimes they want to talk about why they are there and what their loved one is battling and other times they want to talk about anything but that. We are there to give them what they need and we do!
When I leave 7 Yellow I always walk away feeling fulfilled. I also leave with a little reminder of just how precious life is and how it can change on a dime. While on paper the volunteer role is just passing out flowers, tea and treats, in reality it is so much more. It is brightening someone’s day and meeting the most amazing network of people. This truly is a life-changing experience!