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Joey Hetalia’s Call to Service led him to CareOne at Cresskill

It was the day before Christmas, Julie, a family friend invited me to bring gifts to the senior center that she worked at in Canada. As we entered the facility I had mixed emotions and the image of my grandmother came to my mind as I looked at each senior. (I was with my grandmother from 4th grade until High School before leaving for College.) For almost an hour we were exchanging laughter and thoughts about Christmas. I was really moved when they would share something about their life with me. When Julie bid goodbye she said to them “I’ll see you after Christmas”. One resident said “You mean, you’re not here tomorrow?” There was silence and the Julie explained that she had to spend time with her family. As I looked at the woman, she replied with two teardrops rolling down her cheek from her eyes.” That night I couldn’t sleep thinking about her.

The next morning we had Christmas breakfast and exchanged gifts with Julie’s family. Afterwards, Julie asked me, “Where would you like to go today?” I think Julie was shocked when I said “I want to go back and say Merry Christmas to your residents, I think that will make them happy.” “After that you can take me anywhere you want.”

When we arrived at the facility and Julie entered the hall, everyone was shouting for joy and some were even in tears hugging her. My eyes were looking for the lady I was thinking about all night. I found her in a corner and as I came closer and greeted her the same as yesterday, she whispered in my ear, “Thank you for coming back today, it’s worth more than the Christmas gift that you gave me yesterday.” I could see my Grandmother in her and it gave me goosebumps. I saw her still smiling when we left the room to go home.

This experience is why I’m in healthcare working for seniors. I immediately started attending free caregiver training and took courses toward my college education.

In August 2011, I was so happy when I was offered a position at CareOne at Cresskill in their Rehab Department. I enjoyed taking residents to the gym for their exercises, working with the Nurses assigned to them, making sure they’re up, dressed, and had their meal and medicine before going to therapy.

Later, I was transferred to the Activities Department and felt more like I did that Christmas in Canada. Every day is a happy day when I’m welcomed by my residents and I see them smile. I’m most amazed when I can make someone laugh or smile when they aren’t feeling well or in pain. Every night I pray that they feel loved, cared for and that I will see them again tomorrow.

This will be my 10th year here and I am still thankful to this facility who gave me the opportunity to share my talents and continue to be a part of making our residents feel that they are home every day.