Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Value of a Name

Recently I told stories to a group at a senior citizen's home. They came with wheelchairs, walkers, hearing aids and other assistive devices. They were bent, crippled, old and many just plain tired of living. What could I possibly say to them that would be worth their attention? That was what passed through my mind as they came into the room.

I decided that I needed to get to know them, each one. I introduced myself to each person, asking their name. I met Sophia, Marie, Mary. Willadean, Dale, Bob, and many others. Each told me their name and where they were from. Most were from that very county, a few from out of state. Each told me their name carefully, and each name I recorded in my memory.

Then it was time to tell stories. They listened. I sang, they sang, I laughed and they did too. The stories flowed; sometimes they shared a memory with me.

The hour ended too soon. When it was over, I went to each to say good-bye, to give and get hugs, and look into each pair of aging eyes. As they are, so will I be one day. It is not a frightening thought; if I am like them, how blessed I will be to be able to hear a story with my friends, to laugh and sing and enjoy yet one more day in this world.

When I left I thought over the time with this group and what I could learn from it. Of all the lessons I learned, the most valuable was this: remember the names. Listen to the names, for that is most important. Remember the names and the valiant people attached to them. What other means of identifying ourselves do we have?

I am Susanna, teller of stories, mother of sons, grandmother of many. Who are you?


Carolyn Stearns Storyteller-Announcer said...

Beautifully Written and timely I just did a nursing home yesterday. They loved my stories and music and we enjoyed such a nice hour. They loved the fact they had grown up on the milk our farm peddles. Many lived their whole lives in the shadow of the New England hill we farm. Theyfelt they new me because our milk trucks came to their home.

Susan at Stony River said...

Sounds like a great day for you and them! Willadean - that name sounds like a story in itself, I love it. (Gonna use it too)

I had very similar thoughts yesterday, as I was applying for a job in the Veterans' home. They want someone with more health experience than I, and with more of a military connection I think -- but still it would be an honor to serve them if I could, so what the heck, I put my bid in -- I've heard 'No' before LOL

What a wonderful calling yours is, Storyteller!

Brighid said...

Blessings to a wise woman storyteller. We need more like you.
I worked as activities director in a retirement residence for a couple of years and the elders were very special to me.

Granny Sue said...

The best part of that program, Carolyn, was saying goodbye to them. I went to each one, shaking their hand or hugging them. One man pulled me in for a hug and I told him I just don't get enough hugs. His eyes filled with tears and he said, "Neither do I." Whatever hugs I get must be hugely more than what he gets-a thought I carry with me. I hope I will be invited back sometime. Their memories of mining and country living were quite something to hear, and they could relate to the stories I chose to tell them very easily. They loved the songs too, especially the slightly ornery ones!

Granny Sue said...

Susan, I do hope you get that job. You would be a bright light in their days! Larry suggested I volunteer to tell stories at the veterans' homes and I will do that when I retire. As you said, it would be an honor.

Granny Sue said...

I can imagine how it would be to work with them, Brighid. Similar, I would think, to working with children. There is a great deal of trust involved on both sides, and respect.

Barb Whittington said...

Love this post. I too love old people. IN fact I was in an online group once and a guy from UK edited a few of my stories. We connected after a while apart online and he said you're the one who writes the stories about old people.
I was proud to say yes I am. Not so much anymore but I still love each of the characters I wrote about. you are right, a name is all some of them have left and it's important.

Janet, said...

Nice post, Susanna. Sounds like you and the people at the nursing home were blessed by your visit.

Anonymous said...

A touching tribute. You are obviously a loved and a loving person.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Wow, not only did I enjoy this post, but also the comments left from it.
It is true, in the end all we have left is a name. And what kind of memories are attached to that name will be how we are remembered.
I was especially touched by the teary eyed fella that doesn't get enough hugs. So sad.

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