Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

Visit to the Senior Citizens Home

By Volunteer Janet Soo
Project VI Participant

It was a warm Friday afternoon when the volunteers arrived at the Senior Citizens' home greeted by the friendly old man who apparently could speak six or seven languages, including Chinese--my native tongue, and Japanese--the language I am currently studying. Taking this great opportunity, I spoke with him in Chinese and realized how amazing his ability to learn foreign languages was, as he spoke with ease, without a trace of pronunciation flaws. I later had the chance to test his Japanese skills and found him to be quite fluent.

Each of us unloaded the bags of food supplies from the bus and made way to the seniors' residence. I took four bags of food into one room, where four ladies each sitting down on their beds smiled at me. Watching their smiles brightened the gloomy atmosphere. They shook my hand as I passed them the food. They all stared at me continuously as if I was a very fascinating toy. One lady stood up in front of me and began touching my arm, then my face, and finally stroking my hair. This reminded me of my grandmother who is now living in Canada.

Even though we were not tied in any way, I felt we shared a bond

I am currently living in Japan, so I have not felt that form of affection in ages. And it certainly made me feel loved. This lady led me to the doorway and all the elderly women showed me their bright smiles, waving their hands to see me off. I walked into the next room where another group of four women were sitting on their beds staring at the entrance, awaiting guests. Their smiles became evident as I immediately entered the room with the food. Each individual thanked me in Vietnamese. As I handed the bag of food to the old lady at the end of the room, I saw her wet eyes. Then a tear drop rolled down her right cheek. I gave my hand to comfort her. She took it and urged me to sit beside her. I wiped that tear off her cheek.

At the same time, another tear drop formed on the opposite cheek. In seconds, tears started pouring down both her cheeks. I put an arm around her, and she placed her left hand on my right leg and caressed it. I could feel the warmth in her hands and eyes. I too, began to get emotional and could not help but cry. As we both sat on her bed crying our guts out, it was just the two of us in the room at that moment. I looked up, the other three ladies watching our every move.

Gia Hoa walked into the room and passed out some ointment to them. She started a conversation with the sweet elderly woman whom I was sitting beside. Gia Hoa explained to me that the woman had lost her family and was all alone. I was also told that I resembled her daughter, thus the bursting of tears. I did not know the woman, yet it felt like she was a part of my family. Even though we were not tied in any way, I felt we shared a bond.

I sat with this woman for at least 15 minutes, later to find that two other women had started crying as well. I crouched between their two beds and held their hands, as they squeezed me not letting go. I finally had to go after a few minutes.

These seniors rarely have the chance to have people visit them, and seeing them smile gave me a sense of achievement and fulfillment. It was very sad to leave them, but deep in my heart I will never leave them.

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