The infirmary in Jamaica was another part of my journey that touched my heart. Much like a nursing home in America, it was difficult seeing these older people living in a way they probably never wanted to end up. But somehow, even here, I managed to find some of the happiest and kindest people.
I was nervous about the infirmary. Elderly people are not really an area in which I’ve had much experience. Other than a few uncomfortable nursing home visits here and there growing up, I hadn’t really dealt with that population. I didn’t know what to expect, what to say…I just wasn’t altogether excited about the infirmary visit.
Staying with a group of friends helped put me at ease. Some of the people on the trip worked in hospitals and nursing homes, so they were completely comfortable already. We were basically just supposed to find someone and talk to them, maybe read to them, paint their nails, color pictures, and things like that. My friends and I took things to the next level and had a dance party.
We met a man named Henry (the man in the picture above). He had the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen and he was always smiling. He enjoyed sitting in his chair in the shade, just enjoying the beautiful Jamaican weather. He was capable of walking, but it wasn’t an easy task for him, so he usually preferred to sit. But my dancing friends and I even got him to join us in our fun.
Most of us being in our twenties, we arrived at the infirmary with our smartphones that have music on them, but little beyond the range of Taylor Swift and rap music. This was not a problem at all. We got some other residents to hold our hands and join us in our carefree dances to “Shake it Off” and “Cupid Shuffle.” Here I thought I would have nothing in common with these older people from another country, but sometimes grabbing someone’s hand and twirling with them is enough to break down barriers like that.
There’s a picture of my friend Jenna dancing with a woman who called herself Lily. They were both so happy, and it was contagious. We started off with just a few people and ended up with several residents and students gathered in the grassy area of the courtyard. It was the epitome of pure joy.
You don’t have to have much in common with someone to make their day; all you have to do is be there. And of course, spinning, clapping, and shaking your hips a little might not hurt. 🙂
When in doubt, dance it out!