Friday, February 11, 2011
You Are My Sunshine
Yesterday our youngest, Callie, joined her classmates for a field trip to a local assisted living center. The kids had spent class time this week preparing some songs, as well as Valentines to bring along for the residents. Callie's maestra, Mrs. Carnahan, is one of those rare teachers that goes beyond the classroom to make a lasting imprint on her students, instilling them both with a love of learning and, today, a love of giving back.
This was the first trip the kids have made to the center, and they filed in dutifully as First-Graders will, their willingness to stay in line overcoming the tinges of fear that come with strange places and new faces. Their first performance was for the main community of residents, many of whom were running behind (Yoga class apparently ran long) so they got a bit of a late start.
The kids handed out the Valentines and sang their songs, to the delight of the audience. Callie's class is conducted entirely in Spanish, so their two songs were Cuatro Vezes al Dia and You Are My Sunshine. They were, put simply, a hit.
It turns out, in fact, that this is the first time a group of youngsters has visited the assisted living center. So this was a real treat for the group, as beyond the occasional grandchild there just aren't too many kids coming to visit.
The class then walked over to the "memory ward," where folks who are struggling with Alzheimer's get special care and attention to ease some of the big challenges that come with fading memory. For the kids, it was clear that the feeling in the room was that much more intense, as the outward signs of decline were vivid and the engagement from the prospective audience remote.
And perhaps that's why First-Graders are uniquely equipped to bring smiles to people who need them the most.
One resident, concerned and disoriented at the influx of children, protested to a caretaker that someone should call the police. Another sat quietly on the couch in the lounge area, her head leaning forward in a pink hat, stoically staring into her lap as the kids came in. And she stayed almost motionless as they lined up and began the program.
Happily, some of the residents from the prior performance had enjoyed it so much they made a point of coming along and filling out the room, adding some now familiar faces to the mix.
The children continued into another round of songs, belting them out with just a little more confidence given their experience down the hall.
And as they sang, it became clear that other voices in the room had joined in.
One of those voices, hidden beneath a pink hat and rounded shoulders, rang out clear as a bell.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..."