I’d like to invite you to a couple exercises.
First, take a moment to look around before reading on. What art is visible to you, right now, from where you are? What does it mean? And what does it mean in that particular place? Is it office art? Is it something you picked out for your home? What is the artwork instilling or communicating to you?
These are the sorts of questions our residents have been asking—and thoughtfully responding to—in our recently launched "Art, Culture, and Meaning" class, offered through the Spiritual Health Department at Aurora. Residents have weighed in on what they think and about ruined structures, Minneapolis Craftsman style bungalows, Victorian poetry, and Impressionist art. We together have asked: Are ruins monuments to the past or obstacles to the future? What were the ideals behind Craftsman designs, and what does it mean to tear them down? Why do the ordinary scenes of picnics, hay bales, and tea times move us? And why did people paint these scenes in the first place?
Second, take a moment to think about someone that was important to you and who left a lasting positive impact on your life. What did they do that impacted you? What gifts did they give you—in the broad sense of gift? Did they facilitate your curiosity? Encourage your sense of adventure? Provide a for you a place of hospitality and acceptance? How did that gift resonate in your life? How do you steward the legacies that have been bequeathed to you?
Here again, residents are invited to share just such stories in the newly begun “Reminiscence Group.” In telling such stories, we remember our connectedness with others, we remember the gifts we have been given, and the gifts we have have to give in our acts of care, comfort, and encouragement.
If it seems odd that these two groups fall under the umbrella of “Spiritual Health” offerings, consider that these are ultimately conversations about values, meaning, relationships, gratitude, and blessing. In the “Arts, Culture, and Meaning” sessions, participants wonder about the values artists, the viewers (then and there and us today), and their respective cultures. In conversation, they can renew clarity about their own values and purpose. In “Reminiscence Group” participants tap into the interconnectedness of their own history while simultaneously connecting with others.
Furthermore, in cultivating curiosity about the world and people around us the world come alive. There is an aesthetic conversation happening all around us all the time, wherever there is art—in all its myriad forms. If the “Art, Culture, and Meaning” class reminds us that the physical space around us is rich with meaning, our “Reminiscence Class” highlights the richness of the lives of the people around us.
It is my hope as facilitator that these opportunities of discussion and these acts of sharing our stories might renew our sense of wonder, delight, and gratitude. These exercises remind us the world is awash in meaning and that every individual’s life consists of remarkable stories that are worth hearing.
This is true for everyone, everywhere. So, I will leave you with these last questions, reader: what are the values around you? And what story do you need to tell? And whose stories do you need to hear?
By: Rev. Jeff Challberg, Director of Spiritual Health at Aurora on France
Aurora Senior Living is managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota’s largest senior living operator. Ebenezer is the senior housing division of Fairview Health Services and has 100 years of experience serving older adults.