The results of the poll from last week’s newsletter are in. It was a tie between “keep it Wellness Wednesday” and “send us a random video.” So I have decided, for now at least, to do another Wellness Wednesday post.
I’m going to be raw and brutally honest with you, my audience. The reason I didn’t feel up to doing Wellness Wednesday anymore is because I haven’t been being very “well” to myself. I haven’t been eating well, I haven’t been exercising, I haven’t been following my own advice… and I felt really bad giving little “wellness nudges” if I wasn’t giving them to myself.
So, all that being said, I’d like to tell you a story that’s a little bit outside that scope, but not too far out.
(By the way, I’m on vacation this week. There’s not the greatest Internet connection where I am, and I’m really tired; so please bare with me.)
I have always been really comfortable around “old people.” I’m going to categorize “old people” here simply by saying they have completely gray or white hair. I know that’s stereotyping, and not all-encompassing; but for the sake of keeping this simple that’s the category of people that are the subject of this post.
Tonight I was told about an older couple here where I am. The man has a disorder that is taking him away–dementia, or Alzheimer’s, or something along those lines–I didn’t want to ask. But he was noticeably forgetful, and a little bit confused as to the goings on around him. However, he was incredibly nice; and though I had never met this man before, it made me very sad.
He used to be a player in a band–a bluegrass band of sorts. He has a mandolin and several guitars in his house. I found out, though, that he hadn’t picked up a guitar in over three years.
I was asked to spend some time with him. I brought my ukulele. I intentionally did a little research ahead of time and picked up a couple songs off his CDs (the ones that he is recorded playing on with his band) and several other old songs that I thought he might know.
When I walked in and started putting my stuff down, he immediately moseyed up beside me and put his hand on the top of my soft black ukulele case. He was instantly curious what was in there. I unzipped the case and lifted out my uke. I showed it to him, and handed it to him. He had never played the ukulele before, so when he tried to strum mine it didn’t really sound like anything.
I motioned over towards his guitars, which were hanging in a rack. Which one is your favorite? I asked. “That one,” he said.
Want to show me?
He went over and picked it up. He sat down with it, and I had a friend pull up a tuning chart on the Internet (because I had never tuned a guitar). I broke his tuner (!!!) trying to swivel it around so we could read it; then I realized it had been super glued many times. I went back to my bag and got mine, and I gave it to him. My new uke has one built in, and I don’t need it that much anymore. I almost didn’t bring it with me–I almost left it back at our cabin–but it was very obvious now that I had brought it for a reason.
When people heard the guitar sounds, they started gathering around. I didn’t know any of these people but my three friends (a couple and their son); but I could guess who these people were. They were the wife, their children, and their grandchildren.
I very slowly pulled us through the chorus of “City of New Orleans” with three simple chords… I had him do a C… then a D… then a G. He was grinning like crazy as he strummed. I just kept singing, “Good morning… America… How are you…” and, a couple times, he sang it along with me. Then from all around me I started hearing another sound.
People were sobbing.
We kept playing. I played “King of the Road,” and “Flowers on the Wall,” and several other old songs I knew. To anyone without patience it would have been incredibly tedious; but I have always felt like a natural teacher, which gives me a great deal of patience. I could also tell how incredibly important it was that I was doing this with him.
I suggested we take a break for a while. I knew it was a lot for him. We all got Fourth of July hot dogs and pasta salad and fruit and chips and beer and sodas. We sat around on the porch and talked about random things.
After that we sat around a big fire pit with stones to sit on around it. We played the uke and the guitar for another hour or two. People were singing and dancing and sitting and standing all around us. We played into the night and watched the boys set off Fourth of July fireworks down by the water.
Why is this a Wellness Wednesday post?
You have the ability to affect someone else’s wellness. Wellness Wednesday isn’t just about straight-up health. It’s about emotions. I did something, for a complete stranger–a whole family of strangers–and it didn’t cost me a dime. I did what I love–singing songs, with a little bit of patience–and it gave that family a lifelong happy memory that they will have of their husband, their dad, and their grandfather.
Even if you don’t have someone like this in your life, there’s someone nearby that you can help. Visit a nursing home. Don’t play an instrument? Bring yarn. Bring a jigsaw puzzle. Just let them know you’re there to spend some time with someone who might need it. I bet that person won’t be too hard for them to find.