On an unseasonably cold and rainy August afternoon, residents of the Alma Nelson Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Rockford, Ill., are indoors.
Two or three sit in their wheelchairs, watching images on a silent television. A nurse’s assistant deals cards to a patient while another naps under a heavy blanket. Busy staff personnel make notes in charts, while others accompany their charges into darkened rooms.
Physical therapy has just concluded. More patients line up in their wheelchairs, some slumped to the side and asleep. Near the door, happily chatting with her therapist, is Harriett Dudley. With bright eyes and a warm smile she wears her 92 years with grace.
“Harriett has a lot of visitors,” reports one of her nurses. “She has four to six visitors a day. It’s great when the little ones come to see her. They brighten up the day for everyone here.”
For Harriett, the rehab center is where she must be right now. “I need to get better and get back to what I’m supposed to do,” she explains.
The retired teacher and reading specialist wants to get back for Silvie and Antonio and all of the other children at Trinity Day Care Center. Harriett has a stack of handmade get well cards that the children drew for her. “Some of children drew tears, because they were sad I was sick, others drew angels,” she says.
Volunteer reading tutor
Harriet, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Rockford, Ill., volunteers her time tutoring reading for underprivileged and special needs children at her congregation’s day-care center.
“When I come to read, Silvie always wants to go first. She holds my hands and gives me hugs. We walk hand-in-hand to the room where we read,” says Harriett. “When Trinity first opened the day-care center I knew I needed to do something, maybe just reading to a group of children. Then the tutoring opportunity came up.”
In addition to tutoring, Harriett is also a member of the day-care center’s board and a member of the senior task force committee, she also stuffs bulletins and helps out with congregational mailings.
“Harriett is a wonderful witness to what it is to be a disciple,” says Gary Heedum Trinity’s interim pastor. “I was searching for ways to share her story. Then I got an announcement for the ELCA’s ‘God’s work. Our hands.’ Video Contest and I knew that was how to tell Harriett’s story.”
Heedum’s video entry, “This is what I can do,” is one of 224 videos that were created by ELCA members, congregations and individuals for the contest.
As the star of the entry, written and directed by her pastor, Harriett tells viewers about the stewardship of her talent as a reading specialist. From arriving at the church in her 1988 Buick to meeting with her students individually, Harriett tells her story through a voice-over. She didn’t want to talk before the camera, because she believes that is not good stewardship of her talents.