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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Potluck (Meal or Gathering) Deadline 7-26-12 @ 10 AM NY Time (07/19/12)

TITLE: The Transformation
By C D Swanson


I was helping set-up the tables in the open area when I heard a voice laced with harsh indignation speak. "This is stupid. What's the reason for this garbage?"

I looked at him and continued with my task. He continued griping and shaking his head in annoyance.

I brought out the bright lemon-yellow napkins and red plastic plates carefully setting the table. I continued in this fashion until all ten tables were completed.

While I was walking to get the lemonade I collided with the complainer. "Sorry" I offered immediately.

"I just want to get this stuff over with so I can go home."

John was in his fifties, tall and slim with a sparse hairline. His nut-brown eyes were scanning the yard.

"John what's going on with you today? Is everything okay?"

"It's just I see no reason for this ridiculous outing. It takes about three hours to set-up for a one hour thing, and three hours to clean up. I see no reason for it." He ran his hand over his head, and continued, "I'm really tired too. I didn't sleep last night."

“I have to get going, if you want to speak later on...come to my office everything remains confidential as you know."

“But, you're the director and my boss...thanks." He stammered before walking away.

The music began to play songs, ballads, and swing-time music. I got to know them all. The grill was all fired up. The hamburgers, chicken and hot-dogs were producing a bouquet of tantalizing scents.

I opened the doors and began helping those who needed assistance to the tables. "You look so beautiful Mrs. Moore. I love your pink blouse. Did you bring your appetite with you today?" I smiled then hugged her tightly.

"Yes I'm hungry as a bear, I didn't eat breakfast today. So watch out here I come." She grabbed hold of my hand and kissed it. Her faded-blue eyes dancing with anticipation as she looked about quickly.

One by one they came out, each filled with a growing exhilaration as they neared the outing. Until, finally all sixty residents were outside. It took a little time and effort on the staff's part. But the residents were completely transformed whenever we had potluck outings.

The music of their era with foods they enjoyed from their times. Along with desserts they all voted on....ice cream was the winner three years running.

The interaction with staff and residents eating was delightful, and excellent for their well-being. Even the most apathetic ones would enjoy the hubbub and flurry of activity that occurred during these gatherings.

Faces that were old and weathered seemed to take on a different look. Their unbridled enthusiasm would break through their characteristically bored demeanors as they listened to their music and ate with their peers.

The stories were poignant, articulate and pleasant. Their memory was completely intact as they visited their past with vivid recall. The bond was evident as they laughed and kidded each other. One could almost relate the sounds from this scene to earlier times. Like a cafeteria in any high school so many years ago. One table was singing in harmony to Just the Way You Look Tonight by Fred Astaire.

As I got up to get a cup of lemonade, John came over.

"Hi John."

"My mom might have to go into a nursing home. I'm scared. They all come here to...you know-"

"John. Take a look around. Do they look like they want to die right now?"


"It's about faith John. This is a Christian nursing home. So, although they may be down at times, they have their faith...and their family. I'm sure you'll be visiting your mom. And, I'm betting you'll make sure she's taken care of in every way. God will do the rest." I touched his arm and smiled.

“It's just so hard..."

" To see a parent failing in health after so many vibrant memories of them while growing up...it's tough. But, those days will remain in your heart. Your mom is getting ready for a new journey in her life, and the important thing is that you'll be there with her."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

As we looked around we heard a loud chorus of Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree.

"And, John... in response to your earlier question about why do we do this?” I pointed, "there's your answer."

*This is based on an actual event that transpired during my time as a Director.

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This article has been read 443 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Goergen07/26/12
This was absolutely wonderful; I had tears in my eyes as I read it. What a wonderful director you were to plan special events such as this. My dad is in a nursing home and to my knowledge they have never had a picnic, with food grilling and songs playing! The elderly in nursing homes have so little left, for offering them a “pot-luck outing” day like this, regardless of the work involved…well you were certainly an earth angel and a awesome and wise director! But too, I can relate to John’s pain at putting a parent in there. No matter how good the facility, it is so hard. Your title is perfect for I could envision “the transformation” of the faces as I read the story, even the transformation in John’s attitude. I know you have a reward waiting in Heaven for the light you brought to the eyes and hearts of those who so much of society chooses to forget. Excellent, touching, well written…I loved having a glimpse into this special real day that gave more than most of us can even imagine. This was a blessing to read!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/26/12
This is a lovely story. I think you did a great job of setting the conflict right away, making me eager to find out what was wrong with John. I wish there were more homes like the one you described in this story. All too often, our elderly are just shoved off in some nursing home practically forgotten bu loved ones. I've been both a RN and a patient in the hospital. Often my roommates were elderly ladies and I felt this strong protective feelings for them. It bothered me that some nurses were too busy or too annoyed about having to answer the same questions. Your story is full of hope--hope that it doesn't have to be a bunch of people waiting to die. You really touched my heart with this story.
Leola Ogle 07/26/12
A lovely, lovely story! Fun things we take for granted, like a nice potluck with special music, means so much to these dear ones in a care facility. Good job! God bless!
Noel Mitaxa 07/26/12
This is beautifully-written, with such vivid and energetic descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of the day.
Above all, it's flavoured with respect for the residents and for John's professional and personal challenges.
Thanks for your warm and clear insights into providing nursing care for people whose recovery takes a whole different direction to most nurses' patients. Great job.
Hiram Claudio07/31/12
This was simply amazing! I enjoyed this piece from beginning to end. The pictures that your words painted were so clear and vivid (I could really smell the scents coming off that grill).

And the message is timely and powerful. The loving heart to care for these residents, the concern for the grumpy co-worker, then the compassion for his own fears about his mom, ... the story was simply riveting. And the ending was a perfect and fitting conclusion. This was awesome!
Edmond Ng 07/31/12
An excellent piece showing us that it's all worth it despite the extensive pre and post efforts required for such an event! Too often we fail to realize that while the preparation and the clearing after may be difficult and time-consuming, the success of the actual gathering is key, especially when it comes to a gospel meeting.

Thank you for sharing this. God bless.

Dannie Hawley 08/01/12
Delightful and insightful read! I so totally agree with the above comments and really don't have more I could say about this excellent piece. One wonders if John has ever thought of the hours that go into preparing a Thanksgiving Day dinner, as well as the hours that go into the clean-up for the thirty minutes it takes to have the gathered family eat it! Such things are never equal, but it's not about being equal, is it? Your article so clearly shows us what it's all about!
Beth LaBuff 08/02/12
What a wonderful, blessed time for the residents. I enjoyed reading of this ministry.
Danielle King 08/03/12
Camille this is truly delightful and so touching. The residents and staff were very fortunate to have such a kind and caring director as you. Thank you for sharing this heart warming event with us. God Bless.