Although the president of the Residents Council is expected to look in on the committees now and then, it’s been my good fortune to be engaged as Zoom coordinator for many, usually sitting in as a silent but close-up-electronically observer.
So I’ve spent a lot of virtual time with a lot of you in the latter half of 2020, and have come to appreciate how many souls in this community spend prodigious amounts of time and energy looking out for each other.
Most of us see the work of some neighbors when we walk the trails, play outdoor games, tend outdoor gardens and indoor plants, read Voices and the Buzz, Zoom into ALP sessions, borrow from the library, enjoy flowers and seasonal decorations — this season a standout — and occasionally admire the work of our artists and poets and scriveners.
Less visible are the efforts to improve our dining experience; to prod and monitor that buildings are in good repair and the grounds well kept; to help ourselves and the staff meet our health needs; to help us make the household repairs that become harder without workbenches in basements; to improve the ways we are informed and communicate with each other; and to organize and enable our annual effort to tell our hard-working staff how much we appreciate them.
Almost entirely behind the scenes are those who keep the books and pay the bills of our various committees; who welcome newcomers and help them settle in and be introduced, and who recruit and evaluate candidates for our scholarships to help staff prepare for more demanding roles.
And there are yet others whose efforts are in abeyance, but will we hope soon resume: our choristers and chime players, our Encore volunteers, our arrangers of entertainment and education.
I can’t begin to name and praise all the formally organized programs, let alone the folks who pop up from time to time to persuade us to . . . ring bells on Christmas Eve . . . or spend countless hours helping us tell holiday stories on Channel 918 . . . or organize us into secret Santas — or in countless other ways, throughout the year, prompt us to do each other acts of kindness or recognition or just plain fun.
One new initiative deserves note: Amidst all the Zooming and e-mailing, we have a new awareness that as many as one in five folks in independent living don’t have (or easily use) computer access. Some members of your executive team are doing yeoman’s service to get old-fashioned paper letters and landline phone calls to those neighbors, to get them back in the loop.
All that in the midst of a pandemic that has cramped and restrained the lives and activities of most people in our wider society.
It is awesome. You are an awesome community of public-spirited folk, and it is my privilege and good fortune to be perhaps more aware of all this because you have chosen me, for a few years, to be titular president of all this orchestrated bustle and commotion and service. The well-kept secret is that I and my predecessors mostly “preside” as do the hosts at the head of Thanksgiving dinner tables, where other people have done most of the work.
The year 2020 has been a trial for our world and our nation, and we here in our insulated corner have not been spared the inconveniences, postponements and foregone pleasures that a pandemic produces. We have been spared most of the illness, heartache and loss of that pandemic, thanks to the leaders of this institution who have unstintingly anticipated our exposures, coaxed and sometimes chivvied us into safer behaviors, and addressed our needs.
The end is in sight. We will have to be vigilant and compliant and patient for months still to come. Nonetheless, just as we endure dark New England winters in the confidence that a verdant spring lies ahead, we can persist in the certitude that normal life will resume in the foreseeable future, and that this plague will be behind us.
I, for one, can’t wait for the day that I can plan dining room or bistro dinners with many of you, over conversations in which we can at last be eyeball-to-eyeball, so to speak, close enough to gauge and appreciate subtleties of body language. I can’t wait for the day we can gather in the parlor or at the head of the stairs or in all those committees I spoke of — gather, meet, collect, assemble, congregate.
I can’t wait for the day when we can hug each other in congratulation or commiseration.
But I can wait, and I will. We all will wait, a little longer, comforted by knowing that a better year lies ahead, and that we will be able — with fresh intimacy and vigor — to look out for and care for each other, which is the proud hallmark of this outgoing community.
Happy New Year!