Photo by Janine Werkman

It wasn’t until after my first volunteer shift with Musicians on Call that I realized how natural the whole experience felt for me.

MOC Program Director Janine Werkman wrote me to say thanks again for volunteering. She mentioned that I was, “so natural with everyone and really very thoughtful,” and I’m grateful for her feedback. It was nice to hear that the music was so well received.

Context is everything to me. That’s why I took the mental route of trying to figure out why the whole experience felt so organic. I had to think it over.

While I’m sure many people out there could rival me in this regard, I essentially grew up spending time in hospitals. Between my dad’s heart transplant and various stints for my grandparents, I was in and out of the hospital about as often as an average kid might have ventured off to an athletic practice or a review session with a tutor.

From visits to meals, the hospital became a second home of sorts. The nurses knew our names. The doctors would exchange stories with us. There was nothing bad – in my mind – about going to the hospital. It was just where we went.

I think that’s why Musicians on Call is a cause I believe in.

The experience of going room to room while doing bedside performances differs for every volunteer. Some have an easier time with it than others. It really depends on the day and the patient. What it came down to for me, though, is that I love to sing … but now I was singing with a purpose beyond myself.

It was the day after Memorial Day and I was performing a slew of one-on-one concerts for wounded veterans in Washington, D.C. As someone who has several friends in various branches of the United States’ military, this opportunity opened my eyes to something I so often forget – young men and women are the ones fighting for our freedom out there and they’re not all coming back in one piece (or at all).

Talking to these soldiers — these heroes — it changed my perspective regarding the armed forces forever. To see these wounded veterans with their families, just trying to stay motivated and recover, I finally realized how great the sacrifices made for freedom really can be.

The least I could was sing for them.

A few whistle solos and blues tunes later, we exchanged smiles and glances. But before going our separate ways, we took a moment to swap a mutual admiration for each other’s time spent together. That’s what really made the day.