Compassion Cell at Sunrise
It was the lady that wasn’t participating at all that made me realize how important this event truly was. We were busy preparing for this month’s Compassion Cell in our usual fashion: organizing last minute supplies, moving chairs around and making the necessary signs to direct people to our area. This month’s Compassion Cell brought Orange County volunteers to the Sunrise Senior Living Home to engage in true acts of selfless service. Our goal was to prepare valentine arts and crafts with the residents and give them our unconditional friendship for a few hours. In the end it wasn’t the activities at all, but rather this one elderly woman who taught me what friendship was all about.
We were moving chairs from the television room into the overcrowded banquet room to create more places to sit. We were walking briskly so that we could spend as much time as possible with the residents. As we walked past her I noticed her discontent with our actions. Fortunately she was not shy and she quickly expressed her unhappiness to both me and Amit. Amit and I took one look at one another and knew instantaneously that our Compassion Cell had begun. We set the chairs down and finally began to listen. She expressed how things change so quickly, without any warning and without any communication. No-one had taken the time to explain why we were there, or why the chairs were being moved. The moving of the chairs was just one more incident of unwanted change in her life. Staying in a ‘Senior Living Center’, we can only imagine the changes that she has had to deal with… the chairs were only a symbol of that very change.
She was intelligent, far more than what I had expected. She conversed fluently and matter-of-factly. She said that she would join us, only if she was inspired to do so. She spoke bitterly about recent incidents, and yet laughed at our comical jokes. In short, she was like many of my own friends.
Later on, when I finally saw her in the banquet room participating in the same arts and crafts as the others, she had a huge smile on her face. I could tell that we had somehow given her some sense of belonging and comfort during our brief stay. It was in that moment, that I too smiled.
In fact many of the residents seemed delighted during the activities and expressed a deep sense of gratitude for our stay. As we would thank them for the opportunity to come into their homes, they would in turn thank us for spending our time with them.
Along with making the valentines crafts for the residents, Alfred took photographs with a polaroid camera, and BTC volunteer Sonja rocked the house with some amazing opera singing. All of us were blown away by this young girl’s talent. After Sonja dropped her talent on the scene, Joshua, a slightly younger BTC volunteer rocked the audience on his clarinet.
As usual, after the Compassion Cell we all shared our experiences with one another. A new volunteer expressed that she had gained much more from the residents than she had given. As the saying goes, the more you give, the more you receive.
In the spirit of friendship,