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The Gibbons Globe

The Gibbons Globe

The Gibbons Globe

The Gift of Giving: Brookdale Seniors Offer Advice to Gibbons Students


Christmas – a holiday meaning something different for everyone.

For some, it’s pure joy. Huddled alongside family and friends, presents wrapped with love under the Christmas tree, baking sugar cookies, and watching Elf with your parents.

But for others, it’s loneliness: a reminder of what we lack, or have lost. And when we’re alone, sometimes it feels like the only thing that’s there.

In 1889, author Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “To give up one’s very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas.”

On Nov. 27, Franciscan Youth International (FYI) had its monthly visit to Brookdale Senior Living. FYI is one of Gibbons’s most popular service clubs, spreading God’s joy through weekly service opportunities. 

FYI’s visits to Brookdale began as a one-time trip 10 years ago. 

“I’ll always remember our first visit,” said Mr. DeLaRosa, FYI moderator, “because afterward a woman came up to me and told me that her mother was there. She said, ‘Even though this is a very nice facility, there is a lot of loneliness here – so thank you for coming.’”

After that, Mr. DeLaRosa knew their time with Brookdale wasn’t over, and FYI has been visiting ever since.

Brookdale has comfortable seating, warm-lit rooms, cozy rugs, and different daily activities, yet inside the brick building’s exterior, among laughter and joy, loneliness can still be found.

“Some people come and drop off their grandparents or parents, and are like ‘See ya!’ and they don’t realize that they’re lonely,” says DeLaRosa. 

Some people have children or grandchildren who come to visit. Others don’t. No level of comfort can beat the feeling of seeing your child or sitting down with your grandchild, to hear about their day. 

That’s exactly what FYI tries to do – interact sincerely and share genuine conversations with the residents. It’s a win-win. Students can help make their day a little more joyful and learn from someone who has lived a long life.

Interviews With Residents

Resident at Brookdale Senior Living, Bruce Heimstrong, Galesburg (Ill.) High School Class of ‘81

“What makes you the happiest?”

 “Being with people. When I’m around people, of all ages, just like here, I have a great time. Talking great joke stories and just making everybody happy.” 

“What advice do you have for high school students of today?”

“Something I’m sure you already hear is, that whatever you go with your friends is be safe. Always be in groups, don’t ever be alone. And I know you guys do, but listen to your parents.”

Resident at Brookdale Senior Living, Martha Gattison, Garner High School Class of ‘51

“What advice do you have for high school students of today?”

“Lessons are hard but if you pay attention and try you can do anything you want to do, if you try.”

Final Reflection

At the Brookdale Christmas party, a crowded room of residents and Gibbons students took part in making crafts, lively conversation, singing Christmas carols, and building pom-pom snowmen and reindeer. Heimstrong’s face lit up while he spoke with a table of students, telling them about when he used to play the drums and when he saw AC/DC four times. Students and seniors went back and forth, listening to each other’s stories and taking in the Christmas spirit. 

The loneliness in the room was soon nowhere to be found.

“That’s what life’s all about! Just having happiness and loving people and having great times,” Heimstrong said.

There is no worse time of the year to be lonely than Christmas – just think about all the sad Christmas songs out there: Blue Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, If We Make it Through December, etc. During such a festive time of year, sadness hits hardest. 

That’s why it’s important for Gibbons to visit Brookdale during the holiday season and hopefully make their Christmas a little less blue.

But those living in retirement homes aren’t the only ones prone to loneliness. 

Family, friends, teachers, and strangers you pass on the street can all feel that way. 

Christmastime or not, it’s important to remind those close to you that they are loved. 

Just like FYI does at Brookdale, sit down with your parents and grandparents, ask them about their lives, and listen. Remind your friends that you’re grateful for them. Tell a stranger that you like their necklace or their shoes. 

Give every day like it’s Christmas.

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Leach
Charlotte Leach, Reporter
Hi! My name is Charlotte Leach. I am a sophomore and this is my first year working on the Gibbons Globe. I have always loved writing and ever since I could remember English has been my favorite class. I love this school and am excited to start writing stories about and for our community. I hope everyone has a great school year and loves these stories as much as I know I will.