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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Four Pillar Resolutions: Community - An Email from God

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

(1/2013) Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to give blood for the first time. I admit, a small part of me was nervous as I sat, waiting to be taken behind the curtains to be evaluated. What were they going to ask me? Would I be able to donate?

I thought I might find some solace in a friend who had donated blood before. Instead, she shared her horror stories. An inexperienced nurse had to stab both of her arms several times apiece before successfully tapping her vein. Another nurse pierced all the way through her vein causing a large bruise to spread across her arm. Well, great, that makes me feel better.

Soon I’m called behind a curtain to answer some quick questions before donating. The nurse working with me was a motherly African American woman with a large smile. She chatted to me about her day as she reviewed my results from the medical questionnaire. During the conversation, she glanced over the fact that she had to wake up at 4:30am every day in order to make the two-hour commute to her job. A quote suddenly popped into my head from the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which says, "I just want you to know that you’re very special and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has."

With this quote prompting me, I took a moment to thank the nurse for her daily sacrifice and tell her that her work made a difference in the lives of others. She paused, looked me in the eye, and said, "Thank you." I don’t think anyone had ever told her that before.

It wasn’t long before I found myself reclining on a gurney, arm stretched out as the nurse disinfected the chosen area before inserting the needle. I was one of the last people giving blood, so as I lay there, the rest of the nursing staff began packing up the equipment. They laughed and chatted with each other, singing along to the music playing from someone’s laptop. It was clear they were a family and loved what they did, even if they did have to wake up at 4:30am to do it.

I couldn’t help but think how underappreciated people like these nurses were. Volunteers and blue-collar workers make up the foundation of all businesses and organizations, arguably filling some of society’s most important roles. It is through the efforts of these men and women that the lives of everyone around them are made simpler and more enjoyable.

At some point while those nurses danced around me belting out Christmas carols, I realized that I wanted to be one of these everyday heroes. I wanted to improve the lives of those in my community and not expect anything in return. Just do it because I love it.

Two days later, I received an email that offered me just the opportunity I needed to fulfill this wish.

For the past four years, I have volunteered at the Carroll County 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program (TRP) in my hometown of Westminster. One of my classes at the Mount required me to partner up with a non-profit organization to create a media piece – an article, website, brochure or similar – which would help the organization. My natural choice was TRP. Apparently word spread within the organization about what I was doing and it wasn’t long before one of the women I used to work with, Susan Withnell, sent me an email with the opportunity of a lifetime.

In her message Withnell told me about some of the struggles TRP had recently been facing. The program, which provides horseback riding lessons for the physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped, was suffering from an extreme lack of volunteers. In fact, they were dangerously close to being unable to open for their fall session because not enough people were coming forward to donate their time. The retirement of dedicated long-time volunteers left administrative positions unfilled. Volunteer riding instructors were aging and in low supply. New, young volunteers needed to step up and take over the program before it disappeared altogether.

My recent media project had turned a light bulb on in Withnell’s mind. She remembered me from my time volunteering at TRP and thought I would be the perfect person to intern under her. Her intent was for me to become a riding instructor at TRP – a job I had never considered until this email.

I couldn’t stop crying as I read and re-read her kind and excited words. I knew in my heart this was exactly what I was supposed to do. As soon as I had decided in my heart just two days earlier to make a difference in the lives of those around me, God had worked it in the heart of Susan Withnell to reach out to me with this opportunity. It was too immediate, too coincidental for it to have been anything but divine Providence.

I did have one small fear, however. Did Withnell know that I was only a junior in college? She’d have to wait until 2014 before I would be able to dedicate the time necessary for the position. I asked her and waited with bated breath to see if she was willing to wait that long. Maybe there was someone else who could fill the need more immediately.

I woke up the next day and went straight to my computer to check my email. Withnell had responded, "I knew that you were a junior," she said assuring me that it wasn’t a problem; she was willing to wait for me to graduate and take the position. I can’t explain the joy I felt.

In the meantime, I look forward to the classes and internship hours required to be a certified therapeutic riding instructor. I must take first aid/CPR classes, complete online exams, have 25 hours of teaching under the supervision of a certified instructor and be tested in my knowledge and abilities with horses and disabled individuals. It will undoubtedly be a long process, but I am so eager for the end result.

For once I will actually follow through with my New Year’s resolution and be able to fulfill what God created me and all other volunteers for – helping others and bettering my community.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones