Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat . . .We must find each other.
- Mother Theresa, Saint
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus, Explorer
All real living is meeting.
- Martin Buber, Philosopher
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
- Bil Keane, Cartoonist
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
- A. A. Milne, Author (Winnie the Pooh)
A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.
- Lin Yutang, Writer
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, Philosopher
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
- Loretta Girzartis, Author
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, Missionary
In American life, we think we are most free when we don't need anybody. Exactly what Alzheimer's represents is absolute dependency - That's what we all need to learn - how deeply we need one another.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics
Memory Bridge Newsletter
05/01/10 - Meeting in the Middle: True Stories of Presence from the Bridge
Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher by Amy Wescott
Although Sue and I enjoyed getting to know one another, her lack of interest in group-based cognitive activities persisted. A home visit was arranged, allowing me to connect with Sue on a more personal level in her home environment, where we played games and perused her photos and books. Sue sustained interest and actively participated without signs of apathy or frustration. She especially cottoned to reading aloud and assuming the role of teacher—having been a first-grade teacher for many years—while I assumed the role of student. This visit reinforced for me the magic that happens when activities and facilitators resonate with individuals' unique abilities and emotional needs.
For my next visit at the respite program, I brought a copy of A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein, dubious that Sue would feel comfortable reading the poems aloud to a group. To everyone's surprise, Sue prompted me to lean closer so that together we could flip through the pages. “Would you like to read one of these poems?” I asked. Noticing Silverstein’s amusing illustration, Sue responded with a laugh and an “oh my golly,” then slowly began to enunciate with relative ease and no further encouragement from me the following:
Geraldine now, stop shaking that cow
For heaven’s sake, for your sake and the cow’s sake.
That’s the dumbest way I’ve seen
To make a milk shake. (Silverstein 1981, p. 18).
The program director led the group in laughter and applause when Sue finished reading. Sue smiled in response, her eyes widening as she looked around the room taking notice of everyone and of how they took notice of her. I flipped to the following poem and discovered Sue, wide-eyed and smiling, ready to continue:
Each time I see the Upside-Down Man
Standing in the water,
I look at him and start to laugh,
Although I shouldn’t oughtter.
For maybe in another world
Maybe HE is right side up
And I am upside down. (Silverstein 1981, p. 29).
Remarkable to all present, Sue read poem after poem with perfect timing, careful emphasis, and feeling. She appeared increasingly aware and pleased with the fact that she was regaling us with her reading abilities. After reading aloud to the group and responding to overwhelmingly positive feedback, Sue was tired. She napped briefly, but instead of hanging her head and slouching forward in her chair as she commonly did, she sat upright, leaning her head back with her eyes closed and her hands folded in front of her.
At the respite care program, Sue revisited her role as a teacher . . . and as a leader. When Sue’s daughter learned that her mother read aloud to the delight of the group, she was surprised and pleased that her mother’s teacher-self and special gift were illuminated and shared. One of the lessons and joys I have found in working with people with dementia is that we sometimes have to turn our frameworks upside down to meet them right-side-up.