Our domestic volunteers commit a year of serving full time in our office supporting our organization in areas such as communications, development and programming. But on Wednesday afternoons, the domestic volunteers go out and serve directly in the community.

Today’s Advent story of encountering God comes from domestic volunteer and communications coordinator Bridget Higginbotham who serves at Jeanne Jugan Residence, a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

FMS Volunteer Bridget Higginbotham leads a BINGO game at the Jeanne Jugan Residence

Through Girl Scouts, dance and church, I’ve visited many nursing homes in my life. But my time at Jeanne Jugan has been different: my weekly visits have allowed me to get to know the residents from whom I might have shrunk away when I was a kid.

From bringing the therapy dogs around on visits, working in the snack bar, helping someone clean her room or just chatting with residents, I’ve enjoyed practicing the ministry of presence. We emphasize to our missioners during training the importance of just being with people, which totally  goes against my natural instinct of always needing to do something.

But in my several months at Jeanne Jugan, I’ve learned that the residents don’t need me to do much — they have nurses and staff for that —but they could always use an another ear to listen to them or an another hand to hold theirs.

I started volunteering at Jeanne Jugan shortly after my grandmother, Granny, passed away. As God ended her painful fight with cancer and called my last living grandparent to heaven, He gave me other elderly men and women to love and support.

I see so much of my grandparents in the residents. In loud, portly Carl I see my Pépère. Every week, he teases me about me about working at a non-profit instead of some big, high-paying job. I know that, like a grandfather, he means well, so I laugh it off and bring up a current event to discuss such as the election or the Washington Wizards’ losing streak.

In sweet, soft-spoken Peggy I see my Grandma. While her physical condition immediately reminded me of my Grandma, I got to know Peggy and felt a familiarity in the overwhelming love, pride and concern that she for has for her family.

In other residents I recognize universal feelings of sorrow, joy, frustration and hope. I could go on and on about how connected I feel to the elderly at Jeanne Jugan. My time in direct service there has helped me to appreciate how we all belong to God’s family. The residents have inspired me to become a better sister — or in this case, granddaughter — in Christ to all those I meet.

To support the work of volunteers like Bridget, please make a donation to Franciscan Mission Service this season.