A New Experience
A student written reflection on a Candor School field trip to a local old age home
Shock, pity and thankfulness- the three main emotions I felt after our MSP visit to the Camphill Friend’s Old Age Home. The trip was a great overall experience, and I gained a lot from it.
Though I am not ignorant of the less fortunate or the elderly at all, sitting with, and talking to them, was a whole new experience! I had never visited an old age home before, but what I had seen on T.V back home in America was totally different. I didn’t expect it to be at all the same, but nevertheless, the cold reality of it struck me hard. Listening to their stories of losing wife and child during delivery, being widowed, consecutive heart attacks, losing children in accidents , being abandoned by their families, or never getting married to start with, astonished and moved me. Though they all said they were happy, I couldn’t help but think it was because that was the best they had seen, or they had no option left.
When the bus first pulled up I saw the colorful front of the building, I thought, Oh, this actually looks nice. But just seeing the outside of their rooms, with mold, stains and fading paint, in addition to the dining hall, was almost enough for me. With every room we entered, I was dumbstruck. Looking around trying to absorb every detail of their rooms while trying to listen and engrave into my mind the stories they told was really trying.
I found myself comparing everything I saw to what I was used to – their tiny, old, black and white T.Vs versus my flat screen 3D T.V back home, their lack of closets, and just a single armoire that must have held all their belongings, while must of us have both that is barely adequate storage for all our clothes, many that we don’t need or use anymore, and so many other factors we all take for granted. One such thing is having washing and drying machines, and not having to hang them on lines across our rooms like they do.
As I was making all of these comparisons in my head, I realized something even more sad: they don’t even want all those things that we are so privileged to have, yet don’t say thank you for often enough. The basics they need are what we do not even think about, like proper food, and clothes. Their meals are basic, usually is not very good or varied, and those on a particular diet do not have much of a choice, making keeping their health up even harder. I was especially thinking about us boarders, and how we complain about how boring the food can sometimes be, when the people we visited are just grateful for what they get.
The times when I visited India with my family when I was younger, and particularly this time when I came to stay, looking around, even just out the window on the way to school, and seeing the totally different lifestyles reminded me to count my blessings. After visiting the old age home, I was reminded even more to be thankful for what I have. I remember thinking about how we,me in particular, complain about the slow WiFi in our hostels, when what they have are old fashioned radios and T.no laptops, and most definitely no iPads.
However, much more important than all these physical, technological, and superficial things, is love and family. After visiting the old age home and seeing those who truly have no one left, except for God, who they worship so devotedly, broke my heart. It reminded me to be thankful for the many people who love and care about me, whether nearby, or across an ocean, as cheesy as that may sound.
These were all just a few of the things running through my mind during our visit on October 8th. Though my first time seeing an old age home was hard emotionally and mentally, it provided me with a new experience, and really taught me a lot.
I hope we can do something more for the residents there maybe something as simple as taking food for them, giving them something for their barren rooms, taking books for those who asked, or preparing something to perform for them. May be we could even have fundraisers to donate money to them or holding food and clothing drives, repainting some dirty walls, or planting them a garden, to express that we care. If you personally are willing to take the initiative to visit them with your family, keep in my mind the gift of giving. Why not contribute the things we hardly use such as any lightly worn clothing, shoes, or blankets or even better, buy something new to gift to them.
One of the best things about the people we visited was their huge, ear-to-ear smiles for us. They appreciated our company so much, and seemed entirely oblivious to how much they affected all of us with their stories, and how indebted we were for the opportunity to sit down and speak with them. I personally was very affected by this novel experience, and putting everything I felt into words was exceedingly difficult. Even though this reflection did not even begin to cover everything I felt and thought during our field trip, I learned a lot from this experience. I truly hope we get the chance to visit them again, and do something more to make a little difference in their lives, like they did in ours.
-Aasha Shaik, Grade 10