Beautiful, Insightful Poem by 16 Year Old Boy
*This young man received our education and training. So, at the visit at a memory care home, he knew to simply be who the elder thought he was. His insight is beautiful.
As if He was My Dad written by Jamison Poate
I step into a home for the sick,
A cafe filled with elderly
That stare at me and my friends,
On the outside, nothing is wrong with these people-
They are completely normal,
I walk up to an old man confined to his wheelchair
Whose eyes lock with mine-
They are a window into his past
That he cannot remember,
“Hi son!” He tells me,
His voice filled with
Hope, joy, and sadness.
I don’t hesitate.
I give him a hug, as if he really was my dad
As if he was my dad that was gone for 10 years,
Deployed in Vietnam,
Stripped from his family and now finally home.
As if he was my dad that raised me on a farm
And took care of me when I was little,
Whispering bedtime stories in my ear.
As if he was my dad that watched Cubs games with me
Every single game day,
Filling the evening with laughter.
As if he was my dad that didn’t have an incurable disease
One that takes away these memories
That keeps him away from his family,
A demented, diabolical disease
But one that can be treated
With one small hug.
At-Risk Teenage Boy
It all started Dec 12, 2011 when I was told that I was going to visit senior citizens in a nursing home as part of a program called Bessie’s Hope. Many people believe that these citizens are boring and old fashion. They got labeled with these stereotypes that I found to be completely untrue. I sat down with a man who used to teach baseball and was the Police Chief in Yuma County for over 30 years. I got to talk to Gretchen who is 98 but was still young at heart.
I wish people would understand that there is so much to learn from these people. These people are living history and a better teacher than any book. I met some wonderful people. They are so kind. I learned that 60% of people in nursing homes don’t get visits. I don’t know how they don’t get seen. The world is missing out. They remind me of my grandparents. I wouldn’t trade the memories that I got today for anything in the world. I can’t wait until I return.
Bessie’s Hope Program Coordinator
I trained and worked with a group of adults from the Young Government Leaders, facilitating a nursing home visit for them. Here is a beautiful story that came from this visit—about a nursing home man only in his sixties. In a wheelchair, this very bitter man refused to shake the hands of the volunteers as they one-by-one approached him. Following the Bessie’s Hope guidelines and training, each volunteer was undaunted by his behavior and stayed with him several minutes while I facilitated dialogue questions. They each listened intently to his stories. The man was approached by each volunteer at the end of the visit during our “Bessie’s Hope Hug Train”. When asked by each one, “May I have a hug?”, he opened his arms and said, “I don’t see why not.” He exchanged a hug with each volunteer. He had experienced the feeling of empowerment from sharing his stories with the volunteers. He had experienced the caring presence and loving touch of Bessie’s Hope volunteers.
Middle School Teacher
Over 90% of my 9th grade students who participated in Bessie’s Hope showed increased tolerance, gentleness and respect.
Once a month my school does a day of outreach. I was not original in the group going to with Bessie’s Hope, but God works in mysterious ways. When I was told that I had been reassigned to nursing home visits, I received the new with nervous anticipation. I’m a fairly confident person, but I have never felt gifted in the areas of patience and social outpouring, both necessary when spending time with the elderly. When we arrived, I said a quick prayer, and went for it. I’m not going to lie. It was not easy, but the love and joy that I felt from the residents I spoke to meant just as much to me as it did to them. Not only is Bessie’s Hope an opportunity reach into the lives of others, but also an opportunity to grow as an individual by displacing our usual selfish mentaliH