The “alone” prompt I received from a poetry site I follow made me think of a drawing from my artist friend, a person I know by the name of Fish Astronaut. I had asked Fish if they would draw a picture of me with an elderly woman I visit named Doris, one I could present to her as a surprise (she loves Fish’s drawings). Doris also has an affinity for butterflies, something I mentioned to Fish.
The drawing above was the result, which I paired with the haiku I submitted to the poetry site. Now allow me to tell you more about Doris.
I met Doris several years ago at a church in the Seattle area when I was presenting a kindness workshop via a series of evening activities geared for adults. Doris attended alone and I soon learned she was estranged from her family. As such, it quickly became clear to me that Doris was craving attention and it equally became clear that I could provide it to her. As the facilitator, I was able to balance Doris’s need for attention with the overall needs of the class. And as such, Doris felt respected and the class was a success.
A few months later, I was hired by the church to facilitate their women’s group weekend retreat, the first man so honored. Doris attended and again I was able to balance Doris’s need for attention with the overall goals of the group. It was another successful experience. Given the average age of the women in attendance was over 60, I also reaffirmed my interest in respecting elders in our community.
I say reaffirmed because my interest had long been present. As the visionary, as well as from 1994–2018 the Executive Director, of the Puget Sound Community School (PSCS), I put in place an intergenerational program that connected adolescents with elders. Among the unique aspects of PSCS was holding activities in retirement communities and senior centers. I believe that something magical happens when younger and older people are brought together in an environment that respects both.
Back to Doris. Just prior to the pandemic shutting things down, I began having lunch with her every other week at the retirement community where she lives. We sit together and chat about various events in our lives, after which I would help her with some project in her apartment. The activity she requested was far less important than the time we spend together completing it.
Ideally, getting together with someone is a win-win. Both people are a little less alone.