Why I Love This Place
By Beth Robinson
It was a busy day. They’re all busy at JSL, which is good – it’s how I like it – I like a lot of activity. Anyway, I had one thing after another on my calendar that day and at two o’clock I was due to visit the creative writing group. I was going to introduce myself as the new Director of Friends of Jewish Senior life and pitch a couple of projects I was hoping they’d find interesting. And then I was going to scoot – I had a bunch of other stuff to do.
So, I did my few minutes of intro and then Shari Cohen, the wonderful volunteer who has created this group, invited everyone to read what they had written since the previous week.
I am also a writer and I’ve been in writing classes and groups. People get to know each other and, over time, develop the comfort to share work with trusted fellow writers. It can be very personal and intimate and not always a good place for a stranger. So, I started to excuse myself. But Shari asked if I would like to stay. And I said I’d love to if it wasn’t uncomfortable. Nobody seemed uncomfortable, so I settled in, curious as to what kind of writing they were doing.
The readings were short, but each one resonated profoundly with the depth of the writer’s life experience – I felt each of these women, felt I knew each of them after they read just a few lines. It was extraordinary.
I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that I get clearer and clearer about what’s important, both as a writer and as a human being. And that’s what I was sensing – a clarity, a strong sense of each writer. When I work with writers as an editor, I always tell them that the most important thing in writing is clarity, whether that’s intellectual clarity or emotional clarity, a straight line to the reader’s heart and mind is a key element of great writing. I always thought that was something that came with skill and practice, but that day I was aware that, in addition to wisdom and knowledge, some amount of clarity just naturally comes with age.
After the readings, there was a discussion. I don’t really remember all the things they talked about. A lot of it was about people I didn’t know or things that had happened in the group. But I absolutely remember my impression. What a group, I thought sitting there. The stuff they’ve seen. The stuff they know. What utterly complete and clear people. I pushed my to do list to the back of my mind – it felt far more valuable to slow down, to sit, to listen and to just be present.
If anyone asks, that’s why I love it here. There’s so much life in the people at JSL. And every day my job gives me the opportunity to connect with the wonderful residents, volunteers and staff who make up this amazing community.