I facilitate music therapy and drumming sessions with a variety of people: kids, support groups, medical sub-acute units, wellness groups, team-building…
But most of my day-to-day clients are older adults. I especially enjoy drumming with older adults because I find it to be so effective. And every single day that I go to work, I learn more and more. I gain more respect for my elders, and I’m humbled.
In fact, sometimes I feel like falling to my knees in gratitude and thanks for the opportunity to mingle with these amazing spirits on earth. What a privilege! Here are three learning points for me from last week.
1. Finding big meaning in little interactions. One lady came into a drumming session at an independent living community, we started to drum and sing songs. When we sang Autumn Leaves, she mentioned that she always thinks of her husband during that song because he passed during the autumn. The words “I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall” really touch her whenever she hears the song. This particular song moved her deeply enough to well up a couple of tears remembering her husband. It was an honor for the whole group to hear her talk about the significance of the song…
This makes me wonder how many instances of remembrance, strong feelings, and sentiment go without being verbalized in front of the group (or anyone for that matter). I really believe that far more is going on than we are able to consciously observe and process. This reminds me that every little step we take on earth is a sacred step.
2. Discipline. Two gentlemen are faithful in attending a regular drum circle at an independent living community. They come every single time, and they rally up additional participants. They are passionate about drumming, and they are passionate about life. They are always so jazzed about coming to the session. They seem to never tire. They are 92 and 88. They also swim *every* morning together at 6AM. Can you imagine? I’m 31, and I don’t have that discipline! But boy am I happy they are part of the drumming group! I can always count on a steady attendance at that community.
3. Moral Courage. A lady comes to all of the music sessions at a secured community for Alzheimers patients. She does not drum. She does not sing. She does not clap her hands or tap her toes. She does not smile. But she doesn’t leave. She sits, patiently listening, observing. After every session, she comes to me and tells me how wonderful and meaningful the music experience is. Recently, I visited the community, and it was the same scene. She sat patiently, listening, and afterward, she approached me to tell me how amazing the experience was. But this time, she told me more.
She pulled up the arm of her shirt and showed me a tattoo of numbers. “Do you know what this is? It’s Auschwitz!!!” She went on to tell me briefly about how she had saved dozens of babies and children from the gas chambers. Of course, tears welled up in my eyes, and I listened as best as I could. She didn’t want to say much more except that our ongoing music session is of great importance to her and her peers. She mentioned that she knows she’ll go to heaven because of all the babies she saved, but the music that we share together is like experiencing heaven already.
Needless to say, I walked out of that community with shaky knees.
In conclusion, I am awestruck by these incredible people. I have an appreciation for compassion, life, integrity, human will power, our country, and freedom that has increased 10 fold in the past several years of mingling with this generation. I’m so thankful for my job. For me, this is what life is all about.