The countryside is littered with musicians who hardly ever use their gifts to bless others. Maybe you are one of those people, a closet musician, a pianist, an organist, whose opportunity to play regularly no longer exists. I am looking for YOU!
But, now that you have read the first paragraph, I can hear the excuses rising: “Oh, I’m not good enough to play for others.” “Nobody would want to listen to me play?” Maybe my kind of music wouldn’t suit others.” But wait, let me explain what I am looking for before you talk yourself out of considering the opportunity.
Music is a wonderful balm for the soul, especially those old tunes that call back memories of long ago. Whether they are old popular tunes or the hymns a person grew up on, music unlocks the door of the heart and allows an older person to feel things that they haven’t felt in a long, long time.
As you know, I am the chaplain at both Bethesda Hospital and Bethesda Place. At Bethesda Place we have some instruments that don’t get used much and the reason is that we don’t have people; maybe people like you, who could come and play for our residents. We have an electronic piano; it is on casters and can be moved easily to any place in the building. It could be used to play for a group of residents or it could also be used to play for just one. It isn’t the size of the audience that counts; it is the gift of joy that music brings to the hearts of many, especially the elderly members of our society.
We also have an organ, a small electronic home organ, it is on casters too. It has foot peddles and two keyboards and lots of buttons, I suppose if you are an organist you would know what to do with these things. I am wondering if there is anyone out there who would have any interest in using their gift of music to bless our residents.
Four years ago I wrote an article in which I asked my readers if they could help me find a song. I received replies from as far away as New Jersey providing exactly what I wanted. I still have a hard time believing anyone in New Jersey would have the slightest interest in reading something I wrote. That article was about a song that I heard as a boy that never left me. I heard it once, standing outside the door of a church and the melody and the message of the song have blessed me ever since. I had looked for the words and music to that song for years and never found them. Now that I have them, I go to them often and sing the song to myself. It is wonderfully comforting to me. Music is that way. I know that if I were somewhere and someone by chance played that song that I would be enthralled and it would bless me more than anyone could imagine.
So I am writing this article as an appeal. Would anyone out there, reading these words, be willing to come to Bethesda Place from time to time to play either the piano or the organ for our residents? If you would be interested, call me at 204-346-5166 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe a story would help you realize how important this would be. One of our residents, let call her Isabel, loves to sing. Singing has always been a balm to her soul, a comfort in troubling times for many, many years. When I first met her, she was in the hospital. Our relationship developed with the aid of old gospel hymns that she loved to sing. My willingness to sing with her allowed a bond to grow between us that has endured for years, even though we have not always had the opportunity to see one another. Isabel at times struggles with the ravages of dementia; some days are not as good as others. But it seems that sitting together and singing old hymns just calms her troubled mind when nothing else sees to help.
On Blueberry Bay, we often have residents with the most advanced dementia sit together in the living room and we play a CD of music that connects to their hearts. Often, it just looks like they are sleeping, sometimes they are. But other times as they sit there in their Broda chairs you can see the music doing it’s work in their hearts. The signs are subtle, sometimes if you watch their lips closely, they are mouthing the words of the song, or if you look closely a finger or a foot is tapping to the beat of the music. There is a connection, an important connection and I believe that the connection would even be more profound if the music came from the fingers of someone who had just greeted them and shook their hand and spoke to them about the music before the playing began.
There are few opportunities to play that are less anxiety generating that in a personal care home. Believe me; these folks appreciate any music that is played for them. There are no critics in the crowd; just people who are grateful that someone has come to help them pass a bit of time and to share themselves with them. And the commitment can be anything you are willing to make. You could come once a month, you could come mornings, afternoons or evenings, the opportunities is one of those wonderful one’s that you can make fit your time and your schedule. Not many of those around.
Last summer we had a health care aid that didn’t have a piano at home. So on her time off, she would sometimes come to Bethesda Place and practice her piano on our instrument. It wasn’t unusual to find a couple of residents sitting around the piano listening to her practice. She wasn’t performing; she was just playing, not really for the residents, but a blessing to them none the less. That is just how flexible this opportunity can be, just how easy it would be for your gift and your heart to be used to bless members of the Bethesda Place Community.
So what do you think? Are you one of those closet musicians, maybe you used to play the organ for the church you attend, but the church has gotten rid of the organ for a set of drums and a couple of guitars. Maybe you are just learning, but you would like your practices to be more than just mindlessly going back over the same tunes time and time again. Maybe you play as a means of ministering to your own heart; maybe it is the thing that quiets the turmoil of your soul. Would you consider using that same gift to help others in the same way?
Or maybe you know someone who might find just this kind of opportunity one that they would enjoy. Cut the article out and pass it along, who knows? But being a music lover myself and knowing the way music touches my heart like nothing else, maybe something in this opportunity will move you. If it does – let me know, the opportunity awaits!
“The comments expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Southern Health/Santé-Sud Regional Health Authority or the Directors”.