At this particular elderly home, many performers including myself played classical piano songs. Many eyes lit up in recognition of the pieces, but Sherry took a stronger liking to the jazz standards.
“I played piano for a while as a kid, but I didn’t want to take the classics, so I switched to jazz and it’s something that I cherish to this day. I wish young people would take piano because it’s a wonderful things. You go to a party and you’re the only one that can play and they’re all around the piano. Having that skill gives you so much flexibility and helps you out a lot in the long run. I like classical music but I prefer playing jazz because it has this bouncy dance feel to it. I know kids these days will sing and rap or whatever but I just love jazz.”
Just as Sherry said, music is such a practical skill and helps you connect with people of all generations. During most of our performances, residents will recognize our tunes and hum along; on our “holiday expedition”, residents went to far as to sing along with our holiday tunes like an elderly choir. While swaying with the music may not fall under the category of party dancing that Sherry was referring to, it’s clear that music has a powerful unifying and uplifting effect on people.
“Life lessons? I’ve got a lifetime worth of them. One of the important lessons...let me see...well, it’s something that my mother always said: Always be happy and be nice to people. If you can’t do that, just smile. Always smile. My mother was always smiling and I think she lived to be 101 years old as a result. She rarely ever got sick; she just went to sleep happy everyday. I look back on my life and my mom’s life and I think it doesn’t hurt to be nice to people ‘cause those good deeds come back to you later in one way or another, it really does. ”
Smiling. It’s so simple and effortless but how many of us are in the habit of greeting strangers with that sincere gesture? It doesn’t cost us anything and it makes everyone a little happier. You might not be a civil rights activist or a powerful government official but everyone can create positive change in their environment just by smiling; in my eyes, smiling and genuine attempt towards happiness is the first step towards world peace. And who knows, it might even have some health benefits.
“Oh, and one more life tip: learn to dance. I used to sing and tap dance a lot as a kid. I enjoyed it so much. Even to this day I dance. I ballroom dance. If you keep it up, even it you’re not good at it, you’ll be in better shape. And it’s a lot of fun.”