Name: Rachel Hagerman
From: Tempe, AZ
Grade: Senior (high school)
School: Arizona State University
met Dee at a senior center near my school. The volunteer coordinator,
Chelsea, told me a resident was asking for someone to play cards with
her. Excited to meet another resident, I asked Chelsea to introduce
was a quiet woman with bright blue eyes and small wrinkled forehead.
Each Monday, I walked into the coffee-scented dining room of the
center and saw Dee’s
silver hair from where she was sitting alone at a glass table.
always greeted her and reminded her how to play.
we played, we
swapped stories about ourselves. She always listened with curiosity
because, with her poor memory, retold news was always exciting for
time went on, Dee’s
memory grew worse, so bad that she couldn’t remember my name. She
sometimes forgot who I was, and I had to introduce myself to her as
if we had never met.
remember who I was, how could I possibly be making a difference in
her life? At this point, she couldn’t
even consider me an acquaintance.
continued to visit Dee regularly. Even if I was just a stranger
to her, I still cared about her.
used to think I couldn’t
Now I understand that I was frustrated because I was trying to make
friends with a woman who couldn’t
remember me long enough to learn my name. I was afraid that, because
I was a stranger, I wasn’t
life better during such a painful and confusing time.
even though Dee couldn’t
remember me, I still observed her growing happier as the hour of
cards drew to a close each week. It didn’t matter that Dee couldn’t
remember who I was. It didn’t
matter that I was just a stranger.
challenged my ignorance and revealed that you don’t
have to know people to make a difference in their lives.
remember the last time I spoke with Dee before she passed away. Her
silver hair was pulled back from her wrinkled face in a bright blue
flower clip. I had
called her name, but she looked confused, as if she wondered how I
her expression changed.
remember your smile.”
last words have stuck with me. They remind me that, although Dee
remember my name or how we spent time together, I still made an
impact on her life.
aspired to change my awareness of strangers around me. I still
the center, and I’ve
learned many residents love music.
started running a music
program, where I play my viola for them to sing to their favorite
be surprised how much joy- for me and the residents- can come from a
think of Dee when I pull my bow across the strings to each
song. I can imagine her singing along, encouraging the strangers
around her to join.