Friday, April 23, 2010

Introducing… Our First Ever Class Representative

The growth of this project is not a script that I could have written. Gosh, even in hindsight, it’s too nuanced to spell out. There’s the hard work of my trusty volunteer team and the support of other community organizations; the deep sense of unity and friendship in our weekly class; our rapidly broadening readership (thanks to YOU GUYS!!); the touching relationships that have developed between the seniors and their family members, whether in or out of town,… I didn’t expect any of that to grow so big so fast.

But maybe what I expected the least of all is the transformation of the seniors’ personalities. With each story they share, it’s as though their smiles raise a little higher, they dress with more flair, and even their walk carry a cooler, more confident swagger. Honestly, I swear the seniors’ cheeks start to glow.

Bernice, for example, used to write about war and only about war, week after week. But after a while, it’s as though she got the bad stuff off her chest, and now she writes with riotous humor (she makes me laugh so much!) about everything from her first date with her late husband, to the aunt who raised her with unconditional love, to silly memories of school dances and boys, to beautiful observations that it’s good that people are different, just like flowers.

Or for example, Mo used to come to class repeating week after week that he had never written before, and telling us that he had only cried five times in his life. Now he can fill pages with vivid detail in minutes, and well, I’ve seen tears in his eyes a few more times than five.

But no one has changed more than Henrietta.

The first time I met her, I remember noticing how guarded she was. I could hardly get a word out of her. She was shy. But then soon she started opening to our class and blogreaders through soul-baring poems and letters, and soon she started blossoming in real life. She laughs all the time now at everyone’s jokes, and gives her classmates compliments. She even wrote a thank-you letter to the class (see “Henrietta (The Letter I Never Wrote)” under March in the Blog Archive) which moved me to tears and sent me straight to the Kleenex box.

I wanted to tell you all this because, guess what, our class has unanimously voted to have Henrietta be our Class Representative! This is a role we never had before. Henrietta will represent our class in meetings with the staff and community at the senior center, as well as relay blogreaders’ feedback via Facebook and email to the other seniors. Sorry I took such a long blog post to break the news to you, but I guess I just really want you to know how proud I am of Henrietta, our brand new Writing Class Representative!

(Stay tuned for a few words from Henrietta in our next blog post. As Beatrice said in class after hearing these words, clapping, “See? We picked the right person!”)