Discover > Magazine > March 2012 > Spotlight
Cookies, crackers and comfort
One Key Clubber cheers up a hospital
It doesn’t take a grand gesture to bring happiness to another person. You don’t need a pocket full of cash, an army of volunteers or even a lot of time.
As Chris Harris (right) discovered, sometimes all it takes is a basket of snacks and a listening ear.
When one of his family members was in an intensive care unit, his family would sit anxiously in the waiting room for hours, afraid to leave for a bite to eat in case the doctor would come out with some news.
Chris, a Key Clubber at Raceland-Worthington High School in Raceland, Kentucky, wanted to help other families in similar situations. With the help of his Key Club advisor, Renata Boggs, he started a weekly trip to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital to hand out cookies and crackers and talk with families in the waiting room.
“Probably the most difficult obstacle was seeing the families who were possibly facing the death of a family member,” Chris says. “The ICU has only critical patients who might not survive the day. Initially, it was hard for me to know what to say to people in this situation.”
As Chris continued to visit the hospital every Monday, the conversations got easier. After he'd hand out the snacks, he'd ask for the patient's name and tell the family that he'd be thinking about them.
“This was probably the best thing I could say to them at that time,” Chris says. “What was pretty amazing to me was how grateful the families were for the snacks. Some couldn’t thank me enough.”
Learning how to comfort people through words helped him develop his communication skills—enough to convince the East Greenup County Kiwanis Club to award him a US$750 scholarship. He's using his newfound confidence—and the scholarship—as a marketing student at Marshall University in West Virginia.
“I think he got more out of it than the people he was serving,” Renata says. “He would stay and talk to them in the ICU, then come back and tell me stories about what happened. He was very shy, very polite, and I think that brought a lot out of him.”
Renata has often received phone calls from families who were grateful for his comforting words. His club has also enjoyed the good publicity from Chris’ project. Each snack he handed out had a label with “Raceland-Worthington High School Key Club” written across it. Now that Chris is in college, the club continues his tradition.
Looking back, Chris has a special perspective on what he gained from the experience.
“The best things I got out of this project were that I represented my Key Club and people in the community could see that our school was committed to serving others.”