April 23rd, 2020
When I was younger, I requested an apron for one of my birthdays. Why? Simply put, I wanted to be like my mom. What little girl doesn’t? Split between wanting to be like Cinderella and my mom, deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up was the hardest decision four-year-old me faced. While the apron I received was used to help my mom in the kitchen, it meant much more to me than that. It meant holding a role that over centuries has been celebrated as the most important role; the hardest role; the most underappreciated role; the role that requires patience and energy, but most of all, love.
Prior to attending Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA), I did not have much exposure to service. I had some requirements from my middle school’s chapter of National Junior Honor Society; however, it was minimal. I hoped Freshman Service Day would spark some inspiration, but it didn’t speak to me as I had hoped. I completed just enough service hours that year to fulfill the DSHA graduation requirement. Sophomore year brought similar feelings with added fear, as the service requirement jumped from five hours to 16. Towards the end of that school year, a friend of mine told me about her service at the Ronald McDonald House in Milwaukee. I decided to look into it, and that night I filled out my application to become a Hospitality Volunteer. Hospitality Volunteers interact with families and work behind-the-scenes to assist with any family needs that might pop up, as well as complete daily tasks to keep the House running, such as laundry or restocking general use pantries.
When I first started my service at the House, I was a little upset that I didn’t have as much interaction with the guests as I would have liked. Folding laundry and wiping down tables was not what I envisioned while volunteering at a place dedicated to serving families. Within the first three-hour shift, I realized I was very wrong for not one, but two reasons. Service is not about us and how we feel after. That warm and fuzzy feeling is just collateral. Service is not about what we get, but what we give. More so, if we give our all, we will get all out of it.
I was blessed with little moments, like when I was cleaning up the LEGO area in the Great Room and a little girl wearing a blue Elsa dress ran up and asked if she could help me. We finished sorting the small pieces by color and high-fived. Another time I was unloading a dishwasher and a mother walked past me to check if her casserole had finished cooking. It hadn’t, but we shared a smile while I moved onto my next task. Before I left, I pulled out two oven mitts and left them next to the oven. I watched from the other kitchen as the mother checked once again to see if her dinner was ready, and the smile on her face showed that my small effort had brought light to her corner of the world.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin has changed my life, and it is a place I will hold in my heart forever. I have learned from children which types of dinosaurs can fly and which ones cannot; I have learned how to give all that I am and all that I have, expecting nothing in return. As a second semester junior fully immersed in preparing for college, I have new criteria a school must meet for me to be interested: where is the nearest Ronald McDonald House, and to what capacity could I be involved there?
The shirt that many volunteers proudly wear while working their shift has a saying on them, “The House that Love Built.” While I am always wearing my DSHA uniform when I serve, I am honored when I put my red apron over it, sharing in the love of the House and all that goes in to keeping families together.
-Olivia Beaudoin, Teen Hospitality Volunteer