A yellow school bus pulls up in front of the Jeanne Jugan Residence today, opens its doors and delivers 38 exuberant and chatting student-musicians – each wearing a purple t-shirt (the singers) or white dress shirt (the composers). Inside the Home, volunteers and staff assist our Residents into the auditorium and their seats.
The young people enter the room, and quickly the chatter fades as they – seventh and eighth graders from the Mary McLeod Bethune Day Academy Public Charter School – gather along the edge of the stage and prepare to entertain us.
Our director of activities, Francine Whitely, introduces Dr. Richard Zarou, their teacher and “a much adored volunteer here at our Home.”
Suddenly and with great precision, the young musicians stand, place hands over hearts, and at the direction of Amesha Hines and accompaniment of Dr. Zarou on guitar, deliver a patriotic and rousing National Anthem. Several Residents stand too and before the end of the song everyone in the room is singing. Next, the young people sing “What a Wonderful Life” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” followed by three gospel songs – “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” each song has elegant and sweet student solos and is followed by enthusiastic applause.
Later in the program, Dr. Zarou announces, “several students have composed new variations of some popular songs.” He introduces guest pianist, Sarah Horick, who plays several of the tunes, which include everything from “Talking About My Girl,” “The A-Train,” and “Pay Attention,” to “Footloose.” Toes tap and bodies sway as everyone keeps time and enjoys the music. Today is proof, that whether it is children from a Resident’s own family or from a local school, the elderly derive great benefit from their interactions with young people.
During the finale, the young musicians sing a beautiful medley – their school song with “For the Beauty of the Earth.” They manage to get the Residents to sing along — I am surprised that several Residents know the words. True to the words of this medley, Mary McLeod Bethune must certainly ‘be proud’ of these young people, their teachers and the joyful sounds they delivered to the Jeanne Jugan Residence today.
“Dr. Zarou really understands the importance of visiting with the elderly,” Francine later explains, “he provides monthly ‘room visits’ to our Residents — going from room-to-room, spending time with each person, and playing soft melodies for them on his guitar.”
After the performance, Dr. Zarou’s students are encouraged to visit with our Residents. Their voices, compositions, enthusiasm and visit have lifted up our hearts and our spirits. There are smiles on many faces.
“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven.” Matthew 5:16