Op-Ed by Amanda McShane
Helping and learning about others has been a huge part of my life. My brother, Michael, has Autism and is the one who influenced me to connect with everyone. Service has been one of my biggest passions since I was very young. When I graduated from high school, I still wanted to do service but didn’t know how I could make time for it. I was aware during my college visit at Catholic University that I could do service, but I did not know to what extent. Throughout the time in my first month of college, I kept looking at the CUA Service Calendar. Some time later, I looked up the service sites. One of them was Bethlehem House, a group home for adults with intellectual disabilities. I loved it at first sight. You can have a home-cooked meal, pray, and have mass. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to interact and connect with the residents of Bethlehem House.
Bethlehem House has served a purpose every Wednesday night for the past 2 ½ years for me. It was also one of the first places during my freshman year that I became part of a community. I was homesick during my freshman year and it was hard sometimes to get out there. Nevertheless, Bethlehem House provided that warm and cozy feeling At the end of my sophomore year, I decided to apply to be one of the Cardinal Service Corps leaders for Bethlehem House and got the position. Now, I never thought that I would end up leading Bethlehem House and becoming one of the Cardinal Service Corps leaders. I doubted myself and wonder if I could handle the commitment. My freshman self would have been in a state of shock. My co-site leader of Bethlehem House, Maggie Reardon, a sophomore nursing major, and I plan, prep and cook a meal once a month for 20 to 30 people. I have grown a lot as a person, friend and leader. Bethlehem House and Cardinal Service Corps has taught me that there is so much more than serving. It is to speak for others that cannot speak for themselves and connect with people who have different backgrounds.
I have developed wonderful memories at Bethlehem House. One night, the priest could not make it on time but we all came together as a community and had an amazing prayer service. Tom, a resident of Bethlehem House, finally calls myself and others grandma or grandpa. This organization has provided me with many memories and has also many new doors. I have also joined Best Buddies, an organization at CUA that fosters friendships between students and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. I have made a lifelong friend in Lauren through this. If I had not gone to Bethlehem House, I would not have met these extraordinary people who have become my friends. Residents like Tom and Helen have become family to me. I highly recommend that everybody serve. You never know who you might impact and who might impact you.