Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Shortest Tipsheet in the World

So here you are, reading the seniors' stories on our blog, and you may be wondering how to start talking with your own grandparent. Or maybe your grandparents are out of town or have passed (I only have one living grandparent - my maternal grandma - who is the very inspiration of this entire project... check out our blog sidebar to find out more about that) but you've always wanted to reach out to a senior whom you see regularly, whether it's just on the bus or at the grocery store.

Blogreaders often email to ask me how to talk to seniors, and I just feel so inadequate to give any real advice. I am just an architect. I started this whole thing for personal reasons. I have no degree in social work. But what I do have is instinct, energy and an unshakable belief that every day we are given 24 hours to either create more happiness or more stress for our world, to either make another friend or ignore another lonely person.

I can tell you when I first started this project, I was going to run our class at the senior center super-systematically - oh yes, I had a minute-by-minute schedule. But then the seniors and I started laughing, then crying, then laughing some more together, in a way that no class structure can predict or confine. Now I let class be. I show up every week, not knowing what to expect and ready to be surprised. The only thing I need? Sure, pen and paper are wonderful, but those are secondary tools. The only real tool I need is the easiest, handiest tool of all - the human voice. The only item on my tipsheet to you?

1. ASK

I only started calling my grandma to talk four years ago. At the end of our first phone call, she told me:
No one knows any of this. No one knows because no one asks.