Yesterday Reuben and I spent time with 35 seniors residing together here in Asheville. We felt magic unfold as faces devoid of expression on our arrival wrinkled into grins, and long-loving hands liberated by joy moved without conscious direction.
The joy we experienced in the gathering of the seniors was a gift of Mark Levin of ColumbusMark’s One-Man Band. Mark is a schoolteacher and keyboardist who performs regularly at diverse events in our region.
“The staff works hard to provide activities for the enrichment of these folks,” Mark told us. “I want to give the residents something more to enjoy while I play.” Together, we achieved it. Mark performed a diverse repertoire of beloved show tunes that brought joy to many seniors, some no longer able to speak, while Reuben (Mr. Twister) worked with each one.
Mr. Twister responded with his trademark smile and lightning-fast hands to produce colorful creations as Emily, a staff member, engaged residents of varying abilities in selecting a design. Eyes lit up each time Mr. Twister presented a resident his or her creation and moved toward the next wheelchair. I sparkled with motherly pride and delight at the opportunity to photograph such joyful interactions, every one a reminder of our shared humanity.
A concert highlight included the spontaneous addition of a pianist (a long-time resident’s son who never misses Mark’s concerts) to the performers on stage.
At the end of a thrilling hour closing with “I’ll Fly Away,” elders gradually dispersed and scooted away. They left in higher spirits for the day; some, perhaps, only for a few minutes.
Perhaps for some the joy illuminating our shared experience was lost on the playing of the final, fleeting note. Perhaps. I like to imagine the colorful latex creations in residents’ rooms will prompt vague recollections of joy for our new friends in the absence of detailed memories.
Reuben and I are changed, uplifted, in full color. When next we see you, we will still surely glow with the simple joy given to us by Mark Levin and a gathering of grandparents.