I was moving quickly through the halls at NewBridge on the Charles last week, cleaning up after festive Chanukah parties with Rashi School 3rd graders, and preparing for another set of festivities with the 1st and 2nd graders. A resident stopped me in the hallway, a reminder of how important it is to slow down and enjoy each special moment. Little did I know how special this moment would be.
My friend Alan is in his early seventies. He suffered a stroke several years ago that left him cognitively strong, but wheelchair bound. He rarely comes to group programs, but was part of a special initiative with 8th grade Rashi students throughout October and November in which students went to his household to lead weekly activities with the residents. Alan adored the kids, eagerly awaited their weekly visits, and often needed to be asked to refrain from asking more questions so the kids could return to school on time.
As part of the NewBridge/Rashi Chanukah programs this week, several 8th grade students paid a warm visit to the Memory Support household of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center at NewBridge. These students, who had been part of the program last month, asked if they could take a moment to say hello to their friend Alan to wish him a happy Chanukah. Alan needed to tell me every detail of their visit. In our hallway discussion today, Alan also shared that his stroke has left him lonely and often isolated. He said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s not often that I get to spend time with people from outside this community. When you and the Rashi kids come, I feel my heart open up.”
In all of our multigenerational programs at HSL, this is our goal: to open people’s hearts and minds – with celebration and sharing. Yesterday, the students opened Alan’s heart. I know he opened theirs. And as I walked away from Alan and felt a tear down my cheek, I realized that he had opened mine as well.