The Magic of Friendly Visits
By Jo Strausz Rosen
Recently on a particularly gorgeous fall day, I took a walk around the magnificent tree-lined campus of Jewish Senior Life in West Bloomfield. As I walked outside and admired the foliage and inhaled deeply the sweet fresh air, I felt relaxed, and my senses were awakened. When I walk without a particular agenda, I experience a sense of excitement, and an appreciation of life around me.
I stepped inside, into the Meer Apartment lobby, happy to find it buzzing with residents, chatting with their friends, and laughing and schmoozing with the staff. The energy was upbeat, and everyone was smiling. I walked through the building toward my office, and, in the distance, I saw a woman walking slowly with a walker. I decided to walk that way and paced my steps to catch up with her. I greeted her and we both stopped, and I asked her name.
Chatting together in the hallway, I learned that Ruthie, 97, a beautiful, blue-eyed independent JSL resident, has lived at Meer Apartments for ten years. She walks daily for exercise and leaves her apartment to wander about and see what’s happening around her – also without a particular path. As we walked together, she shared with me what her life is like. She quietly explained why she enjoys living at JSL. A Holocaust survivor, Ruthie said she learned long ago that complaining does nothing. She keeps to herself and finds gratitude in the little things, one of which is reading romance novels. She is an avid reader. She told me that sometimes she feels sad when she thinks about recent losses of her friends, and it gets to her. I suggested that maybe finding new friends would replace some of that sadness with joy. I offered to be a new friend.
Ruthie smiled and asked me about my life. I told her about my four grandchildren and how lucky I feel to know them and watch them grow. We talked about the many activities at Meer. She shared that she has a problem hearing, so she doesn’t participate in classes anymore. But she loves seeing people in the halls and around the buildings on her walks. She smiled and thanked me for spending time with her. I thanked her for letting me share her walk.
Isn’t this what we all need? Someone to walk and talk with? Someone with fresh ears to listen to our stories? Someone to know us. When I embraced Ruthie, I felt as if I was hugging my own mother who died in 1996. We stood there together in the hall for several moments, and when we pulled apart, with tears in our eyes, both of us said, ”thank you” and left feeling connected and understood. Connection strengthens the life force in each of us.
I am fortunate to make new friends in the buildings of Jewish Senior Life. I work in a magical place where we remember that time and attention are the best gifts we can give each other. I find that wisdom stays with me when I step out into the world, making even random interactions with strangers during moments of deep connection. We so often focus on our lists of goals or chores or duties… and then something gets our interest that we never knew existed ….and we find we are someplace else entirely. We are in that magical realm of the immediate moment where we gladly reap the benefits of each unplanned experience. This is a gift we can give to ourselves and share with everyone around us.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen once wrote, “We are always moving toward mystery and so we are far closer to what is real when we do not see our destination clearly.”
Would you like to experience the magic of friendship that comes with a visit to an older adult in our community? Would you like to leave behind the lists and the busyness and enjoy the slow, unplanned joy of conversation, or a puzzle, or a game of Rummikub? There is a special feeling in the air at JSL. Come and visit!