In my last column, I wrote about how important it is to be seen, heard and understood.
Last weekend, six friends and I put that concept to the test when we took two hours out of our Saturday morning to bring flowers and talk to residents of Flagship Nursing Home in Newport Beach.
We were told that most of these people never have a visitor. On Saturday, they got seven.
What an amazing experience. Here is a recount of our experiences:
Today was a great experience to connect with more spirits! Think about the layers of communication: verbal/speech, tone of voice, non-verbal, facial expressions, body language, eye contact, and listening. Then bring in the modern world: video, text message, tweet, blog.
Today was a good reminder that all of these communication tools are just that. Tools. Their purpose is to connect us.
I sat with an amazing Chinese woman of 85+ years. She didn’t speak much English, but that didn’t matter. English was just a tool for us to connect. I looked into her eyes, she looked into mine. We connected.
My visit had no underlying purpose other than to share a moment of community and connection with elders who sorely lack this in their life.
My role this morning was to play some background music on guitar while others shared conversation and passed out vases filled with donated flowers.
This simple act of giving, mostly of attention, produced an abundance of smiles and heartfelt connection for all present! Every face in the room had a smile on it.
I was struck how effective eye contact and a simple moment of pure listening can be in producing real and measurable benefits
Like most of us, what gets my attention is what’s in front of me. A visit to this facility was for me a reality check of vast proportion. I suspect most of us would benefit from more moments of positive eye contact, heartfelt conversation, flowers, and a little musical groove in our room. I’m uplifted just thinking about it!
I looked around at these elderly people and immediately felt a sense of sadness for them. It made me wonder how they each felt, because they all looked sad and depressed.
I then thought about what it must be like for them to go through each day, in the same routine, without any family visiting them. How lonely they must be.
I took a flower arrangement over to a woman and started talking with her. At first, her responses were somewhat robotic and short, but the more we spoke, the more she seemed to open up.
She told me her name was Irene, and it became obvious she had an accent. I soon learned she was from Liverpool, England.
I told her when I was a kid, I vividly remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and they too were from Liverpool. She remembered them, and we talked about the “British Invasion.” With a laugh she quipped, “maybe I was one of the invaders.”
It made me feel good to know I could elicit that positive reaction from her, but at the same time I could not help but wonder when was the last time she smiled or laughed?
This was a great experience. It made me realize how short life is, and how when we give back, it is truly the giver who receives.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a great experience.
I ended up staying later than I had planned talking to Valentine, one of the residents. He and I had a lot in common and I felt really lucky to get the chance to meet him. I’m going back on Monday to talk with him some more.
Wow, what a day. Speaking with various residents was moving. Some couldn’t talk, and we communicated with our eyes or with a held hand. Some were hard of hearing and I learned to bend down right to their ear to speak.
I left reluctantly. What do they do in there all day? My heart went out to each of them. I only hope our gesture brought some pleasure and entertainment and even a little adventure from the routine. I received much more than I gave.
Looking into a person’s eyes who knows that at this stage of their life they have little to look forward to, I hand over a vase of beautiful flowers, and those eyes go from sadness to delight and joy.
Each person waited their turn hoping to get time and some flowers. You could feel their anticipation.
At the end I asked who would like a hug, and each in their own way reached out to get a hug. You could see as we left that we had changed their day.
We all need recognition of who we are, to be seen, and heard. It was an honor to be able to do that for each of the people we met a Flagship.
The last words I heard as I left were “please come back.”