It’s Christmas - a time when red kettles and noisy bells jangle our consciences. For one generous month, we donate frozen turkeys, volunteer at soup kitchens and stuff a few extra bucks into the donation basket.
Then New Years rolls around and we stop thinking about those in need. Like fragile Christmas ornaments, we pack them away for another year.
Bonnie Randles isn’t like most of us. A retired nurse, Randles keeps track of the sick, the elderly and the lonely year-round. She does it every day.
She visits shut-ins and others who live alone. She takes the sick to the doctor. She walks the halls of hospitals and nursing homes, chatting with strangers and friends alike.
She calls it “going calling.” If you ask her about it, she’ll say it’s no big deal. Those who receive her calls disagree.
“Bonnie is a miracle woman,” said 90-year-old Mildred Becker, who lives on her own, despite her worsening vision.
“She checks up on me,” Becker said. “She takes me to church. She doesn’t wait for me to ask.” That’s because calling is in Randles’ blood. It’s something she did even as a child, growing up with five brothers and sisters on a ranch in North Dakota.
“People just mingled more in those days,” said Randles, an outgoing woman who has lived in the Valley for more than 50 years. “They always looked after each other.”
Today, Randles has continued the tradition. She calls or visits dozens of her fellow seniors each week. Her calendar is filled with names of friends she takes grocery shopping, Christmas shopping and to chemotherapy treatments. Some don’t have cars, or can’t see well enough to drive. Others are simply lonely, in need of a friend.
“It keeps you from being bored,” said Randles, who worked as a nurse for 27 years, including nine years at Eastern State Hospital. When she retired in 1976, Randles made “calling” her full-time job.
Helping others, she said, had made her forget her own pain, including the loss of two husbands. One died of cancer just four years ago.
Her friendship has helped many others forget their troubles too.
“I can’t tell you all the things she’s done for me,” said 81-year-old Alvina Boutz, a long-time neighbor who has suffered from several illnesses in recent years.
“When I was in the hospital, she had my apartment cleaned. She was running me to the doctor two or three times a week.”
This week, Randles took Boutz Christmas shopping. Later, she drove across the Valley to visit Becker. She also popped in on a neighbor, promising to come back the next day and help with insurance paperwork. “It’s good for you,” she said. “You get strength from the people you call upon.”
Last year, Randles sold her home and moved to an apartment for senior citizens. She didn’t need to leave her home, she just wanted a simpler life, and more time to give to others.
She now lives in the Spokane Valley Good Samaritan Village, surrounded by other seniors. Some are independent like herself. Others need extensive care.
Walking down the halls, she greets her many neighbors by name. She pops in and out of rooms, stopping just long enough to catch up on the news, share a compliment and offer a ride to the grocery store.
“God put us on earth to take care of people,” she said.
“I thoroughly enjoy it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo