Beyond the Desk: Phineas Jackson Gives Time, the Sweetest Gift

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Meet Phineas. As a Project Manager supporting the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Operations Division, he spends his days executing, assigning, and managing task orders and compiling vital information to satisfy stakeholder expectations. But when he loosens his tie and takes off his work shoes, he becomes a Companionship Volunteer for residents in a senior retirement community.

Over the past six months, Phineas has developed an especially close bond with Marvin, an 87-year-old resident who sometimes forgets Phineas’ name but never forgets his heart. They meet once a week in Marvin’s modest one-bedroom apartment. There’s a sofa, a warm blue blanket, and a birthday scrapbook full of pictures from his college days, his family, and his wife’s loving face. Occasionally, in keeping with the season, Marvin’s niece changes his room’s decor. When the update comes late, his niece might get a sharp, “Hey! Why is that Christmas tree still up?”

In this simple room, Marvin sometimes entrusts Phineas with the details of his long and intricate life: how he helped his father grow tobacco on their farm in the hills of North Carolina; his three years in the Army; how deeply he loves his wife and misses the time they spent exploring the world.

Other times, the visits are quiet with only an occasional question denting the silence:

“Is that a robin?” Marvin might ask.

“Yes,” Phineas responds, before performing a quick Google search to confirm the species of the red-chested bird perched on a branch outside the window.

The sharing goes both ways: Phineas has brought his family to meet Marvin, and Marvin’s relatives often send Phineas gifts of gratitude to thank him for pouring a bit of sunshine into their loved one’s day.

“It’s very rewarding. It makes me value life more and respect those who’ve gone before me,” Phineas said. “It’s taught me how to be patient. You just listen. It’s a give and take. I have all that I need so I give of myself.”

Sometimes a visit ends with candy in Phineas’ hands-- a thoughtful gift from Marvin. But it is the fulfillment of knowing he’s brought joy to someone’s life that, to Phineas, is even sweeter.

DSFederal understands the need to form lasting bonds with others. Thank you, Phineas, for sharing your time with us and with those whose lives are made more meaningful by your support and companionship.

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