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Kindness matters

Sister Jane Gibson loves being pushed around the Providence Health Care Center Courtyard. In truth, Sister Jane loves most things. In her eyes, every hydrangea, every ray of sunshine, every vine, and every leaf is beautiful. In her eyes, I am beautiful. I know because she told me so multiple times. 

Sister Jane and Sophia having fun at Christmas Fun at the Woods.

I first volunteered with Providence Teen Ministry at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in the Providence Health Care Center when I was in middle school, and I found it difficult. The health care residents are often weak and sometimes dying. A majority are wheelchair bound, many are in pain. Initially, I didn’t know how to talk to residents, so I worried I would disappoint them and embarrass myself. I was so stuck in my anxieties that I was not fully present. As I returned each month, I grew more comfortable with my role as a volunteer. And my relationship with residents grew. I particularly cherished spending time with Sister Jane, because every word out of her mouth was kind. She complimented volunteers’ hair, their kindness, and even, in one memorable case, their sweat pants. 

Bringing light

One day, I pushed Sister Jane in a wheelchair around the Providence Health Care courtyard. We joined a group of volunteers and health care residents chatting in the sun. I sat next to Sister Jane, and as we listened to the discussion, she rubbed my shoulders. The director of the volunteer program asked residents about their families and their lives, but when the questions reached Sister Jane, she was unable to recall how many siblings she had. All she remembered, she insisted, was that her family was very loving. Sister Jane has memory loss. And even while her memory deteriorates, she brightens my day. What she lacks in solid details she replaces with raw sentiment. Her kindness awes, inspires and uplifts me. 

Interacting with Sister Jane demonstrates that how we treat each other matters. When I first volunteered, I felt out of place. Sister Jane’s and the other sisters’ kindness made me feel welcomed. It encouraged me to return. And as I grew more comfortable, it inspired me to welcome new volunteers because I realized how much I myself valued feeling welcomed. After volunteering, I always returned home feeling appreciated and loved. I want other volunteers to feel that way too.

Sister Jane and Sophia make cards together during the teen volunteer day in October 2023.

The present moment

I am at times so caught up in my thoughts that I disconnect from other people’s lives. Sister Jane reminded me that being kind in the present matters deeply. Whatever our thoughts, whatever our memories, whatever our plans, it is only in the now that we can demonstrate our love for each other. When we feel loved, we feel safe enough to share our love with others. Thus, love cycles from person to person. By looking past myself to enact positive change in the present, I am better able to participate in this community of love.

I’ve heard that people with dementia have a prominent feeling of fear. Because Sister Jane is so positive even as she is unsure of where she is and what she is doing, her kindness must be innate. It trumps her fear and it triumphs over her confusion so that her beautiful humanity remains even as her memory dwindles. Her niceness has no strings attached; it’s just part of her. I am somebody who looks for deeper meanings and embraces complicated answers. Still, I find Sister Jane’s simple kindness deeply touching. She loves me with no knowledge of who I am and no expectations of who I will become. Her love in the moment is so complete that anyone who encounters her feels it.

Even though I do not know the fine details of my future, Sister Jane helped me realize that no matter what career I pursue, I will be more fulfilled if I know my life enriches the lives of others. I hope that I may one day find myself creating a fraction of the joy Sister Jane creates. 

Do you know a teen who might benefit from giving their time with our elder sisters and health care residents? Learn more about upcoming volunteer opportunities for 12-18 year olds at TeenVolunteer.SistersofProvidence.org.

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Sophia Miranda

Sophia Miranda

Sophia Miranda is a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School. She has volunteered with the Providence Teen Volunteer Ministry for many years. Sophia’s been around Saint Mary-of-the-Woods much of her life as her mom, Amy, has worked in the Mission Advancement office for the Sisters of Providence since before Sophia was born.

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  1. Avatar Donna Butler on December 19, 2023 at 6:40 am

    Sophia, what a beautiful lesson you have taught us in sharing your relationship with Sister Jane! Blessings on your future. I know you will make a positive difference in this world!

  2. Avatar Debbie Griffey, PA on December 19, 2023 at 6:59 am

    Sophia, you have written beautifully about what it is like to volunteer, who our wonderful healthcare residents are, and you have described Sister Jane clearly as the sweet, kind person she is. And you are so right, kindness matters every day. Thank you so much for this.

  3. Avatar S. Jeanne Hagelskamp, SP on December 19, 2023 at 8:30 am

    Thank you, Sophia, for your beautiful reflection! Your kindness, too, must be innate, for you had the courage to show up and volunteer, even when you did not know what to expect! And you have continued to volunteer in healthcare and other places. Thank YOU for being the heart and hands of Christ, a light to others, Sophia!

  4. Avatar Connie SP on December 19, 2023 at 8:41 am

    I was so touched by your beautiful reflection Sophia and thank you for your kindness to me when we made cards together last Saturday.
    May your Christmas be blessed in some surprising ways.

  5. Avatar Stephanie Rivas on December 19, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Thanks Sophia for sharing your reflection. Love it!!! Love it!!! One memory of Jane is from a distance, I would watch her go in the chapel and say her prayers she also would clean the chapel and fix the chairs. Such a powerful witness in her childlike simplicity. Let us always remember to love and love is freely given away 🙂

  6. Avatar Editha Ben on December 19, 2023 at 8:53 am

    Sophia, your reflection is ❤️ lifting . It’s a profound sharing of your beautiful experience as a generous volunteer in our health care. What a loving tribute to our dear Sister Jane. Thank you so much, Sophia. You inspire me.

  7. Avatar S. Carole Kimes on December 19, 2023 at 8:53 am

    Sophia, what a beautiful reflection! Some people may come and volunteer and that is wonderful. You, however, reflected on your ministry and it has made a difference in the lives of others and your own. What a profound witness to the Christmas message of love. Thank-you.

  8. Avatar Emily TeKolste, SP on December 19, 2023 at 9:26 am

    What a beautiful reflection. Sister Jane sure is a treasure – thank you, Sophia, for sharing your experience and for your service.

  9. Avatar Carol Nolan on December 19, 2023 at 9:31 am

    Sophia, you are very important in my life, having “known” since before you were born. Can’t get away from it! The older you get, the lovelier you become, and your relationship with S. Jane is inspiring. You are a blessing to all of us!

  10. Avatar Claire Hanson on December 19, 2023 at 10:28 am

    Sophia, your reflection was so beautiful and you certainly picked up on the spirit of Jane. Thanks for sharing and for all you do for our resident in healthcare. You are the face of God to them and to many. What a lesson to us all.

  11. Avatar Joni Luna on December 19, 2023 at 10:47 am

    Sophia I am so proud of the beautiful witness to love and kindness you are to us. Sister Florence once told me, “We see in others what we ourselves possess.”
    She’s right! All the love and kindness you see in Sister Jane is also in you.
    You are a blessing to our Teen Ministry but especially to our Sisters.
    Thanks for opening your heart and sharing your sacred story with us ❤️

  12. Avatar Donna Cooley on December 19, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    WOW! You put a smile in your grandma’s heart today. This is a beautiful writing and reflection on what your care for others has created in your heart. I’m so proud to be your grandma. I thank God that He has given you so much love for others. Love you always.
    Happy birthday December 24.

  13. Avatar Paula Modaff, SP on December 19, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    Sophia, at a very young age, you have been gifted with much wisdom. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  14. Avatar Susan Paweski, SP on December 19, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    Sohia, your name in Greek means “wisdom” and you certainly have that! It takes courage to be vulnerable to other people who are challenged with memory loss. You have learned so much and you have shared that learning with all of us. Thank you for being a member of our Providence family.

  15. Avatar Mary Montgomery on December 19, 2023 at 7:36 pm

    Oh, Sophia, I treasure your reflection about Sister Jane and her kindness and friendship. Thanks for sharing some of what you’ve experienced and learned through Providence Teen Ministry. When I saw you on Saturday at the card making event, your smile and the other teen ministers were “lighting” the room with your helpfulness and attention!
    Your article is beautiful and so are you!

  16. Avatar Greg Miller-Breetz on December 19, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    Sophia, what a wonderful story about my aunt Jane. I’ve known Jane as long as I can remember and she’s always been essentially the same person you describe, long before her memory loss set in. Thank you for sharing this story and for being such a caring person in Jane’s life.

  17. Avatar Sheila Kathleen Donis on December 20, 2023 at 9:34 am

    Sophia, you are amazing! I have seen you in action—always warm, kind and loving.
    -your language
    -your deep understanding of others
    -your loving kindness
    -your maturity
    -your attention to the spirit of others

    You are just who the world needs to heal. God love and keep you. Sheila Donis

  18. Avatar Diane Estringel on December 21, 2023 at 8:58 am

    Sophia what a beautiful article. It was so enlightening to read it and how you are learning from Sr. Jane and your work as a volunteer. Good job. I know your mom is proud of you.

  19. Avatar Sarah Knoblock on December 27, 2023 at 10:16 am

    What a very kind and beautifully written reflection, Sophia! You are a blessing to the Providence Community and to S. Jane.

    The most valuable thing you have is your time. It looks as though you spend your time serving and loving others. How beautiful. Blessings!

  20. Avatar Ron Sharp on February 24, 2024 at 1:59 pm

    Sister Jane is a sweet heart. I remember going to weekly Mass at Little Flower Church in Indianapolis and there was Sister Jane with the best smile. People said she had a healing touch. i just enjoyed her kindness. Also, I remember seeing her at the Marian Conferences at Notre Dame.

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