Expressing our gratitude to the elderly
By Memoona Ghani, Engage Minnesota
June 18th, 2016, Saturday was the Global Impact Day initiated by AlMaghrib Institute. Last year, in 2015, Global Impact Day provided an opportunity to Muslim volunteers to pay attention to the homeless fellows in the community, and that lead many volunteers doing projects for homeless on a regular basis. This year, 2016, Global Impact day (GID) was somewhat triggered by stories similar to these.
Bob was sitting by the window in his room, looking outside without any expression on his face. The window had a view of the street, and one could see people walking, running, cars going by, that roller skating and skateboarding kids and then the gardening experts tending to their plants and flowers. He would often go into this state where he would usually sit quietly and think about the past. Upon asking what he was thinking about, he didn’t answer at first but then started speaking in short sentences with pauses while still looking outside He said:
“Once I used to run.”
“In the morning and evening.”
“My wife would do gardening.”
“We would go for vacation to places.”
“Hiking for hours and hours.”
“I would drive to my friends.”
“I had a very nice car. I bought it after many years of working at my job.”
“I loved my work. I was very smart. People would ask my advice.”
“I used to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I was good at building houses. People would love it.”
“Now I can’t make anyone happy.”
“When I stand, my feet feel like as if the flesh inside my feet is being ripped or some bone in my foot is stabbing the flesh in the foot.”
“My knees feel like as if trying to carry the whole body. My knees get heavy when I stand.”
“I had surgery for both eyes. Why can’t I see clearly?”
“Nobody needs my advice. They think I don’t know anything.”
“I want to run. I want to tell everyone that I did a lot of work. I worked hard. I want to see the time when I had friends I could talk to.”
Listening to Bob, who is now 83 years old, always gave a sad feeling to me that how much he craves for companionship. How much he wants people to know his story, his accomplishments. How his health deterioration is making him feel useless. He has that feeling that he will pass away without people knowing his worth. But he is not the ONLY one who is feeling that way. There is a whole generation that is going through this. Many elderly who once had lived an independent life are now dependent on machines, equipment and medicines to get them through a day. They all want someone to listen to their stories and acknowledge them rather show humility to them that they have done an important part in their lives when they had energy and health. They don’t want to feel lonely, and they don’t want to feel useless. But how much are we (who haven’t reached that age yet) are doing to focus on this beautiful group of people in our lives, in our communities and this world?
This is the sentiment that AlMaghrib Impact volunteers of Minnesota took when they participated in Global Impact Day (GID). The theme of the GID 2016 was “Serving the Elderly”. The goal is to give an opportunity to Muslim volunteers to start something meaningful for the elderly in the community regardless of their religion, race, and ethnicity.
This year AlMaghrib Impact volunteers of MN served at two elderly centers on June 18th during the month of Ramadan (fasting). And then the volunteers ended the day by hosting an Iftar (fast-breaking) dinner for few Muslim elderly and honoring them for any work they have initiated or completed or have encouraged others to do in the community.
Edgewood Senior Living, Blaine
On June 18th, a group of AlMaghrib Impact volunteers visited the elderly at the Edgewood Senior Living and spent some quality time with them. The volunteers also arranged to celebrate the June birthdays by bringing a beautiful cake for the residents and presenting them with beautiful hand-crocheted gift baskets.
The volunteers had a chance to work with memory care unit residents who were simply adorable. The volunteers served them food and played games with them. The famous game at the center is Bingo. The memory care unit had a modified version of the game which the volunteers enjoyed as well.
The volunteers also had a chance to spend some time with the Assisted Living residents and played Bingo with them as well. Some volunteers had never played Bingo before hence it was a fun activity that both sides enjoyed. The best part was to listen to the residents’ stories. And all the volunteers were so humbled by the lives of these amazing people. Some residents had traveled the world and knew about different cultures and religions and were so fascinated by seeing Muslims female volunteers with head covers. Surprisingly, the seniors didn’t ask much questions about why Muslim women looked so different OR why were Muslims fasting that day. The reason was not that senior citizens were not interested. Instead, they already knew, understood and appreciated the difference. And this was kind of surprising for the volunteers because of how much they have to explain about their religion to people these days one would think that older generations would not know much about Islam either.
St. Therese Senior care, New Hope
Another group of Impact volunteers visited St. Therese senior care in New Hope and shared the same humbling experience. They had a chance to take the seniors outside to enjoy good weather and have some quality bonding time. Bingo seemed to be famous there as well.
Honoring Muslim Elderly, Mounds View Community Center
The best part of the whole day was the Iftar (fast breaking) ceremony by Building Blocks of Islam where the AlMaghrib Impact volunteers invited few select Muslim elderly to honor them and their work. Most of these elderly only speak one language, but these beautiful people are almost at every fundraising event for a good cause in the community. They would come to the fundraisers where the only language spoken is English yet these elderly would sit on a table and sit through the whole program to support the cause and help the people.
Hence what AlMaghrib Impact volunteers did was that during the ceremony, they spoke and thanked these elderly in their own languages that they could understand. There were elderly who spoke Cutchi, Pushto, Somali, Urdu and some spoke English as well. This was just a small effort made by these volunteers to make these elderly feel connected to each other within the big events and ceremonies. The elderly were presented with “Lifetime Impact Award” by AlMaghrib Impact and a small gift as well.
Memoona Ghani works as a Business Analyst at the University of Minnesota. She did her Masters in Software Systems from the University of St. Thomas. She lives in Maple Grove.
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