The Unflappable Pansorn and Sara, Summer Hospitality Interns
Among the many gifts of summer — the sunshine and warm weather, outings, and celebrations — came two additional blessings this year in the persons of Pansorn and Sara, our Summer Hospitality Interns. Pansorn Benyasut, a 19-year old sophomore at George Mason University in Fairfax and Sara Reams, a 21-year old senior at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, arrive in May.
Collectively their duties include everything from serving meals, cleaning up the dining room, and assisting with morning and afternoon therapeutic recreation and activities, to running errands, aiding our Sacristan in the Chapel and even walking our therapeutic dogs — Silas and Paul.
As the USO is to our troops, Pansorn and Sara turn out to be for our Residents, as the unlikely pair decides to entertain us by holding a series of three concerts and even a dance demonstration. Though the two have just met they spend many of their off-hours together practicing, which results in happy reports about the sweet sounds of music trickling through walls and into the convent, administrative offices, and other remote crannies and nooks around our Home.
As evidence that practice does indeed pay off, Residents pack the Café for each performance and it is standing room only for the Little Sisters, volunteers and employees. The duos sweet voices, showman ship, patient explanations of the music, exciting show-themes and willingness to do whatever it takes, melt our hearts, raise spirits, and make the elderly happy. “They are great together, a gift from God for us,” says Resident, Mary Schuler.
I am amazed at the bravery of these quiet young women as they stand before us and calmly perform a capella – sans instruments. They sing duets and solos, Broadway favorites from My Fair Lady, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera, and tunes from around the world.
To everyone’s delight, Resident Joe Dignazio joins the duo for their first performance — he sings popular favorites and plays his beloved accordion. Resident Mary Nathan takes on costuming the young women for their anthology of world tunes performance. Each wears a beautiful sari much to the delight of a packed and waiting audience and amid comments of “lovely,” “beautiful,” and “gorgeous!”
Everyone gets into the act during the duos final performance – Hawaiian Night – as Pansorn demonstrates Hawaiian dance to the sounds of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” and our Residents spontaneously sing-along. Afterward, Sara and Pansorn call for volunteers and Resident Miriam Mitchell and AJJ member Evelyn answer their call. Together they teach the arm movements of the Hawaiian Dance including, “come with me,” “the night is young,” “dreams come true,” and “on the sea.” Enchanting.
As a performance team, they face a few of the typical technical challenges yet remain calm and unflappable. When our inadequate sound system begins to squeak and squawk they just keep singing. When the volume is too low to hear Elvis’s song, Sara, who is majoring in English and Fine Arts, never misses a beat she simply sits on the floor and holds the microphone against a speaker. Problem solved.
“Sara, it was such a comfort having you with us these past months in our chapel,” says Resident Anne Sparich, nearly 94-years old and our Sacristan. “Especially since the work was so new to you,” she continues. “You were so dependable; your concern for all, to be exact and in place was very evident. Last but not least, your quiet swift response to seniors’ needs of the moment. We will surely miss you, God Bless you!”
Resident Anne Sparich
“When I first saw Pan, I didn’t know who she was but I did notice the warm and kind way she would greet the Residents,” says Ellen Scott, a 14-year Resident of our Home. “At the time, I was struggling with intense knee pain. I just had surgery on it. One day I realize that when Pan smiles and greets me, that just for a moment, the pain would go away. And I said to myself ‘Ellen, this is proof that if you just don’t focus on the pain, it will ease.’ I deeply believe that Pansorn always will carry that quiet spirit and love of helping others with her. In my heart, I hope and pray that God will protect Pan and be there to guide her as she picks her path in life. I thank God that I got to know her and know I will never forget her.”
Resident Ellen Scott
“Though Pansorn and Sara have a schedule to guide their daily activities, they go the extra mile and make themselves available in their free time to be of service to the Residents, staff and Sisters – it is spontaneous and natural to them.
Many times Sara volunteers to make sure Fr. Green’s afternoon Mass for the infirmary Residents is prepared to perfection and often attends this Mass. In addition, she makes herself available to render service for the afternoon adoration and exposition on Tuesdays and Sundays. She asks the Sisters, “What needs to be done” and then ensures that she is around to provide that assistance. Sara’s presence was a relief to the Sister in charge of the chapel who needs to go out nearly every day. The Sister in the infirmary dining room says the same thing, “Sara has that gift to be attentive to the action of the moment.” Through focus on the job, she is able to quickly anticipate and then see to the needs of our Residents. On several occasions, I see Pansorn all by herself, calling Bingo for the Residents. With no one to help, her instincts and attention to the Residents needing special attention are signs of responsible attentiveness. There was even one time that to please the Residents she was willing to provide for the prizes herself. She said, “Making the Residents happy, Sister.” Several times, I see her after serving breakfast in the main dining room, accompanying Mary Janetatos for their morning bird watch. She was a gracious companion to Mary and their morning walk became a regular sight from my office window.
Pansorn and Sara both have the gift of good voices and they shared their talents generously, at Mass, in the dining room, and at the cafe and even to individual request. Emma Kennedy, a music lover shared with me that Pansorn gave her a CD of her songs, which she says, “I love to listen to so much, and will cherish and make sure to give to my family to cherish and to keep when I am gone.” “I hate to see Pansorn leave,” she says.
Their weekly entertainments and performances are one of the Residents’ favorites. Every performance is Pansorn and Sara’s original idea, initiated and performed by them, while the volunteer coordinator, activities staff and I (as oversight for the summer service program) were present simply to assure them of assistance in case the need arose. The Activities Department has expressed that “they will surely be gravely missed around the Home.”
I have to say that the Home will feel the void when they leave. We grow to love them and are used to seeing them around our Home. But as the saying goes, when we love someone, we have to let them go… so that in God’s time, by His Grace, they can bear fruit in plenty.”
There are many words I want to say, but I am not a speaker, but a writer so I hope to share these words, which resonate in my heart.
In these past two months, I have received training in the faculty of patience, charity, and humility, and I have been tried. There have been moments where giving service has come to me as easily as breathing and as naturally as walking but there are many times of trial and difficulty also. All there are important times, which have taught me to be learned. This summer I have been given a gift: to love and to serve. And it is not always easy, but I believe I have tried to preserve this gift. And this is the joy I received: the joy of giving. It is an inexplicable feeling of happiness that cannot be expressed but only felt. I am blessed to learn the meaning of joy: Jesus first, then others, and finally yourself. This simple formula adds up to a feeling of pure joy.
I thank God for all his graces and blessings that I have received in my time at the Jeanne Jugan Residence with the Little Sisters of the Poor. I am grateful for all things shared to me by the residents and the sisters who have been so loving and kind to me. I thank you for receiving me as part of the family. I ask for prayers, as I will keep all of you in my prayer. God bless.
Summer Hospitality Intern, Pansorn Benyasut