The author, above left, gets to work with fellow members of the Wexner Service Corps.

During our most recent event at the Ronald McDonald House, we started the day learning about the Ronald McDonald House organization and the people it serves. The organization gives families a place to stay for free while their child is in the hospital. An amazing place like this, however, could not be run without the work of many volunteers. We connected our service project that day with the holiday of Purim. When we think of Purim, often our first thoughts turn to the costumes, the carnivals, spending time with family or giving gift baskets to friends. What is often overlooked is that during Purim we are also supposed to give to the poor and people who are pushed to the fringes of society. We learned that without giving to the poor on this holiday, one’s mitzvah is not only incomplete, it detracts from all of the good one has done on this holiday for their family and friends.

I thought that this was a really interesting concept because it makes you realize that often we forget about people in need on holidays, especially because we are spending time with our families. However, the holidays are often the times when people may need more support, whether financial, emotional or spiritual. We read an article by a man remembering the way his father would open up his house to anyone in need on Purim. Not only would he give them money and food, but he would also listen to them and their stories and offer a bit of hope and comfort. This story taught us that even if you don’t have money or resources to give someone, you can give your time and your support.

What also struck me about this story is the idea that it was written by the son of the person who was doing this mitzvah. The son was so moved by what his father had done that he chose this memory to share about his father and what he learned from him. It shows us that we must set an example for the people around us, as we all learn from each other.

After our learning, we took a quick tour of the Ronald McDonald House. The house was amazing! Through the help of many different donors, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, The Ohio State University and many more, they are able to provide all kinds of theme rooms, play rooms, lounges and quiet spots in order to make the families’ stay just a little bit better. What was even more touching was the connection that our tour guide had to the house and the families in it. He told us a story about how he often talked to a family who had a son in NICU and that he had never met their son because of this. Now, however, the son is back at home and the family sends him pictures of the son. As he led us through the house, he shared many of his memories from his time volunteering and forming relationships with the families. He talked to us about how when families come in the house, they always say “welcome home.” This organization welcomes people from all over the world and makes them feel at home.

I cannot even imagine what these families are going through or what it is like to stay in an unfamiliar place. It is so moving to see the way the volunteers and staff of the Ronald McDonald House do everything they can to help these families though this unimaginably difficult time. I felt very lucky to be helping out such an incredible organization.

Once we ended the tour, we went into the kitchen to work with Chef Anthony, who helped us make fresh chicken francaise, roasted potatoes and vegetables, and fresh fruit for the guests. Chef Anthony was a great teacher as he taught us a lot of kitchen skills, such as chopping vegetables very quickly and safely, even though many of us had never done these things before. The dinner that we were able to prepare for the residents looked delicious and Chef Anthony was a major help to all of us. After it was prepared, we served the dinner to the residents. This made me think back to our learning. We learned that volunteers help to give many hours back to the parents that they would have spent cooking and cleaning, and this allows them to spend time with their child in the hospital. Even though it might just seem like one meal, it allows people to focus on what is important, their child, without having to worry about having to provide daily needs. My experience at the Ronald McDonald House was eye-opening and I hope to volunteer there again soon. Also, this organization has many opportunities for others to volunteer and it is worth every second of your time.

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Lydia Colvin is a junior at Olentangy Liberty High School and a member of Congregation Beth Tikvah.