So last week, on my birthday, I wrote a post about Make-A-Wish and wanting to be a volunteer wish granter, and I said I would call them on Wednesday and ask a bunch of questions, and hopefully, push through some of my emotional and psychological reluctance. In a bit of a swivet, and allowing stress to push me to do something I didn’t want to do (I hate the telephone), I made the call.
The volunteer coordinator wasn’t there.
Because I am me, and impatient and easily frustrated, and because I had worked myself into making this contact, I was not happy. I was also disappointed because I wanted to report back in this blog post. Oh well.
I received a call the next day while I was at work. Of course. This week, I finally had time today to call them again, and the coordinator was out, again. By this point, I couldn’t wait any longer. I practically pleaded with the person who answered to be put in contact with someone else who could talk to me and answer my three questions. I seriously was willing to call someone long distance. This was getting ridiculous.
Two friends of mine who know me really well (Mark and Donna) have told me that when I’m frustrated, it is an indication that I’m being prevented from doing something I really want to do, and I should (sort of) see this as a positive thing. I like that. It is an interesting insight into my character. I also know that I think I have something I’m going to call emotional ADHD. I can have a limited attention span, and delay can cause me to deflect. Put me off too long and I’ll move onto something else. There are a lot of kids who need help, and Make-A-Wish is not the only organization.
But I love Make-A-Wish. The training I went through made me into a fan.
An hour after I pleaded and was transferred to yet another answering machine, I got a call from a brand new person. I think whomever I spoke to realized that I really needed someone to talk to me. And the person who took on this Herculean task was terrific.
I explained that I was a new volunteer having trained in March and that I wanted to grant a wish. I was concerned though about three things:
- Most of the wishes in Ohio (my Make-A-Wish group is actually made up of three states: Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. That’s a lot of area.) were far away from me. The closest Make-A-Wish kids were over two hours away. This was fine with me; I love driving, and certainly, it would be worth it to drive that far, but, was that fair to the kid? As volunteers, we are expected to make the journey to the child and family at least twice. Would it be a problem if I couldn’t go more often?
- There was a child who was 45 minutes a way from me, but his family speaks a foreign language. I have some German and some French though not enough to discuss wishes at any deep level, and the family didn’t speak these languages anyway. Did the child speak English? Should I only go to families and children who spoke English?
- The way we new volunteers find out about children in need is through an email newsletter. The children are listed with their geographic location, the disease that they have, some identifying characteristics about things they enjoy, and the number of days that they have been waiting for someone to pick them. It is very difficult to pick a child based on a geographical location when a child who lives far away has been waiting for 5 months. That seems so awful to me. I wanted to know how best to pick a child and wanted Make-A-Wish to help me with this.
April, the kind woman from Make-A-Wish who was willing to answer my questions, was great. It turns out that we really do only make two trips, though we can make more if we wish. Most of the communication with families is done through email and Skype and the telephone. Also, when we visit a family, there are always two volunteers. As long as one of those volunteers is fluent in a language, it is fine for the second volunteer to know only English. (OK, OK, I really do need to crack down and really learn French. I’m chagrined at my lack of a second language.)
Finally, before I even finished sharing the child I had been considering helping who was 45 minutes away, April knew who I was speaking of. It turns out that this child has been waiting for three months, and they are eager for him to have volunteer. She was as excited by my phone call as I was to have someone talk to me. I will not only help a child, I’ll be helping someone who has been on the list for too long. Yay!
Am I now relieved and excited? No, but I think I will be. Here’s how I am going to help myself feel less nervous about this. Let me share with you what I’m most enthusiastic about (besides of course helping the dying child have a happier life, helping the family, yada yada yada 😉
My job as a volunteer with Make-A-Wish is to
Get to the Heart of the Child’s True Wish
Doesn’t that give you goose bumps? It does me. What could be more wonderful?
And Make-A-Wish has a strategy to do just this. I see this as being a two part strategy, and if you read my blog in part for the writing prompts, you can use this as either a prompt or as a goad to creating some wonderful goals. For those inclined, grab a pen.
Make-A-Wish says that there are Five Types of Wishes
(Can you guess? Try.)
See if you can come up with 10 possibilities, 10 desires per type of wish.
- I wish to go…
- I wish to be…
- I wish to meet…
- I wish to have…
- I wish to give…
If you want to feel better about the world, let me share something I learned in training. There was a time in the not too recent past, when Make-A-Wish volunteers only had the first four of these in my list when working with a child. In recent years, “I wish to give” has become one of the more popular wishes. In the past month, one Make-A-Wish girl wanted a neighborhood park to be cleaned. Over 1000 people turned up to clean it. I just read about another child’s desire to purchase beautiful, colorful bandages to give to children in the hospital. These children are amazing.
As a Make-A-Wish volunteer, I get to ask children and teens about their wishes. We are strictly prohibited from making suggestions or in any way pushing them in a direction, and I think that is right, but we are encouraged to do something quite wonderful instead.
Getting to the Heart of the Child’s True Wish
Ahhh. I love that statement. We do this by asking a slew of questions, and I really love these questions. You should consider using these questions for your own desires. Here are some of the great questions:
- Why do you want this WISH?
- What would this WISH mean to you?
- What do you know about this WISH?
- I love this one so much. Let’s say a kid says he wants to go to Hawaii. Our job is to ask what the kid knows about Hawaii. It might turn out that what the child really wants is to surf, or to play with dolphins, or to experience climbing a volcano, or, maybe it really is to visit Hawaii. Make-A-Wish wants to know what is undergirding the wish so that we can give the child what he or she really wants and needs. That is truly awesome.
- Why does this WISH/thinking about this WISH make you smile?
- How does this WISH inspire you?
- What does this WISH mean to you?
OK. I have to say now, after writing about these two strategies, I’m actually getting quite motivated to go and work on the first wish. I did sign up today with the child who lives 45 minutes away, and my name has been officially entered into the system. I could know as soon as tomorrow when our first contact with the family will be. I’m being paired with a seasoned volunteer, so that helps me greatly.
I have a whole packet from Make-A-Wish as to what steps to take (for example, we will be bringing presents to the child and any siblings in the home, and we’ll do that every time we go to the home. I love this.) and I’ll be reading and rereading the information beforehand. I will also be driving up with my fellow volunteer and will grill her with questions.
Besides wanting to grant wishes as a profession, I learned that Make-A-Wish kids and their families make some astonishing gains:
- 98% of parents feel the wish experience gives them the opportunity to be a “normal” family again
- 81% of parents observe an increased willingness by their wish kids to comply with treatment protocols
- 96% of healthcare referral sources observe increases in wish kids’ emotional health
- and 89% of nurses, doctors, social workers, and child life specialists say they believe the wish experience can influence wish kids’ physical health
For me, though, the most powerful thing I learned in the training was that “When a child knows you chose them, it has a profound social and emotional impact.” This has such a deep resonance for me. It didn’t occur to me before I heard this that this is what a Make-A-Wish child feels. The child who is granted a wish feels special. The child feels chosen.
What could be better than helping an ailing child and the family and making them feel as if they matter at a time when things seem so bleak.
It’s hard to imagine anything more worth doing.
*This information came from Make-A-Wish Foundation of America Wish Impact Study 2010, 2014