Winter afternoons can be a bit dull, what with the cold, the clouds, the crust of ice and snow covering the sidewalks. There are times, of course, when this kind of weather is just what my mood calls for, but such a mood demands a delicate mixture of coffee, cookies, and cozy, and is normally reserved for weekends. This, unfortunately, is Monday, and Old Man Michigan seems arrayed in his finest drear and drab.
Connie Wiersma and Nora Kuipers have a solution, “a little light,” as they describe it, “for these wintry afternoons.” As they speak, a warm, familiar aroma fills the small kitchenette where we sit, and a slight ding from the nearby oven assures me that everything will be alright—cookies! The two ladies waste no time; oven mitts on, spatulas at the ready, you can think of them as MapleCreek’s own heroic tandem, a dynamic duo battling simultaneously the Winter Grays and Monday Blues. Slowly the oven opens, revealing a mouthwatering batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Every Monday from 2pm-4pm, Connie and Nora volunteer at the Woods at MapleCreek, serving cookies, juice, and (you guessed it) coffee to each person they meet. Connie, herself a resident at the Terraces, and Nora, who has previous experience working in another retirement community, know how big of a difference small gestures of service can make to the residents: “I love to serve this population,” Nora tells me. “They need us to show them love, to show them that these can be great years in life.” A little cookie, in other words, can go a long way in fostering community life here at the Woods, where for two hours a week everyone in the dining room is smiling for the same reason, residents and staff alike (I myself have been known to eat one or two….).
But, as is so often the case, Connie finds the time and effort she puts in to blessing others constantly coming full-circle, so that volunteering, in some respects, becomes a privilege. When Connie first moved into the Terraces, she knew she wanted to get involved around the campus, and a myriad of opportunities were readily available; serving cookies caught her eye, however, because the name “Nora Kuipers,” who at that time had already been serving the Woods for a while, somehow sounded familiar. As it turns out, the two were members of the same church years back, and their kids were in grade school together. Right away, then, baking cookies on Monday afternoons became a great way for the two to reconnect. Even more so, though, Connie’s experience in volunteer work has led to a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction that she did not expect initially, a relationship with the Woods’ residents that she now covets: “I look forward to Mondays. I enjoy being with the residents here. It brings light to my life too.”
Looking forward to Mondays? Hard to believe, but it’s true—I thank the ladies and take my leave, but not before a fresh cookie is thrust into my hand and an enthusiastic “we’ll be here next week!” left ringing in my ears. Thank God…..