It’s morning at the care program, and time for the first activity, the exercise group. Almost all have gathered around the fitness instructor, except Fred. One aide comes and invites him to get up. “Come on, it’s time to exercise, it’s good for you.” Fred does not budge and gives her a smile instead. The aide insists, without any luck. Soon one, two more coworkers are called. Together, maybe they will succeed in lifting Fred out of his chair. “Sometimes when he does this, I think he is playing a game with us.” says one of the helpers. They leave Fred alone, finally.
I ask Fred if I may sit next to him. He nods and rewards me with a smile. Maybe if I take the time to socialize with him first, he will be more amenable to do what is expected of him? Still in my head, is the agenda planted earlier by the staff, to get Fred to join the group. I compliment him on his smile, get a smile back, wait a bit, and bring up the word ‘exercise’ again. Blank stare is what I get in return. I tell myself, forget it, I am just going to sit with him. Mind cleared of expectations, I notice Fred’s eyelids closing, oh, so softly and for just an instant. The music is blaring, and Fred opens his eyes again. I comment that “You seem tired.” Fred grabs my hand and smiles. That’s it, I tell myself, the old man is tired and wants to sleep. How unpleasant it must be, to be so tired, with no place to rest, and having to listen to some loud tune.
So simple, and also how challenging to put our agendas aside. Being truly present for the other person . . .
Fred did not protest when asked to get up and make it to the reclining chair. An hour of nap, and he eagerly participated in all the remaining activities.