This week I began working at the YWCA’s House of Neighborly Service. Part of my job is to help oversee and assist with a group of around twenty seniors who gather three days a week at the HNS for fellowship and Bingo. Miki is the one of the leaders of the group. She preps, cooks, and cleans for the lunch that is served to the seniors and speaks only Spanish.
Thursday morning was the first ‘Senior Time’ I was scheduled to be a part of. As an outsider of a well established group, I was anxious to see how I would fit in. Would they like me? Would I be able to communicate with them? Would they want to communicate with me? Would it be awkward?
With all these thoughts swirling around in my mind, I approached the door at 8:45 AM and heard loud music coming from inside the building. I was confused and thought maybe the music was coming from a neighbor’s house. I opened the door. The seniors were walking around in a conga-line, clapping plastic plates over their heads, and singing along to the up-beat Spanish dance music that was playing. As a person under the age of fifty-five, I definitely stood out. A woman handed me some plates and invited me to join in the dancing. After about fifteen minutes, the music stopped and we put the plates down. All my fears were gone, and I sat down at the table. Someone gave me a little bracelet, my reward for participating in the exercise. I looked around and noticed the arms of some people there covered with the same bracelets.
I sat down next to a woman named Lily who showed me the art she had brought and shared with me that she wanted to add jewels to make them stand out even more. We started to play Bingo, and I noticed everyone was putting in change to play. I didn’t bring any cash, so I said I would just play for fun and not win any of the money should I get a Bingo. A few minutes later, the door opened and in walked Carlota, a spunky older woman who walked as if she owned the room. She let me know I was in her spot, but allowed me to sit there anyways. She was quick to take me under her wing and help me understand the hidden complexities of Bingo. At the begging of each round, Carlota showed me what pattern would be “Bingo” and made sure I didn’t miss a number. After she won a round, she paid for me to play for “big money”, which I promised to give to her if I won. I didn’t win a single round, but we had some good conversation and I got to hear a little about her.
At lunch I noticed how comfortable I felt after playing Bingo for three hours in a room full of people much older than me. I have never worked with senior citizens, and was nervous to see how it would go. I got to see the silliness, hospitality, and passion the group had, and was invited to come back next week to participate in the celebration of Mexican Independence Day where I will get to try their own traditional recipes.I have a whole year to build relationships with these people and am excited to hear their stories as individuals and as a community.
I am thankful for the ways God is pushing me outside of my comfort zone, yet allowing me to find comfort in the places that are unknown. Please pray for me as I continue to step into new spaces as an outsider. May I be reminded of who I am, as I am trusted with stories that are not my own.