How do we measure happiness? Is it with tools, a test, plotting our mood daily to see when we reach a certain number that indicates happiness? A wise woman once told me that we should think about our ‘energised moments’, those times when we feel invigorated, joyous, happy. I would like to share such a moment with you here….
I arrived at Wickham Hall, it was their first intergenerational session with the local primary school, Sacred Heart. I had reached out to the school to see if they were interested in being part of a more regular session than just the Xmas singing that they had once a year. I knew that singing was an activity that a number of residents enjoyed and, indeed, I had facilitated a singing group at the setting previously. There was one lady in particular, who is living with dementia, whom had been a primary school teacher and loves singing. She always talks of her time with the children and of how much she misses them. It had been her wish, her purpose, that had been the catalyst for our bigger singing Circle with the aim to make it intergenerational.
So, there we were, hoping to bring this lady’s wish to fruition. I sat in the lounge with 11 adults all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the children. They were running a little late and a few people were anxiously asking if we had the wrong day – asking if were we sure they were coming? I even double-checked my diary – but there it was in black and white ‘Singing Circle Wickham Hall”. I advised they were probably walking down as we speak. Then a call from the front of the building – the children had arrived! We looked up to see 29 smiling chatting faces approaching the lounge – people exclaimed ‘here they are, they have made it!”.
That chatting continued as the children filtered into the room, shouting their ‘hellos’ to people as they passed by. Smiles adorned the faces of the adults and another lady with her dog Lo, resident at Wickham, came to join us. Excitement and a little tension filled the air as the children handed out their song sheets. They had brought three songs to share with us and ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ came first. We all sang along following the words on the sheets provided. This was followed by the Bob Marley classic ‘Three Little Birds’. Lastly, was a faith-based song that the children had obviously been practising named ‘Our God is Great’. As they sang, they became increasingly animated, sharing the actions to the song with us all. People laughed, sang and also became animated in time with their young teachers.
After a few more songs we stopped for juice and biscuits; the children broke from their group and flooded the room with their presence. They chatted, asked people questions about themselves and listened with interest. One little girl approached me and asked me why it was so warm in the lounge, and why people didn’t have blankets instead! She added ‘what do they do in the summer when it’s really hot?!’ Another young lad chatted with us about football, as we had sung ‘You’ll Never walk Alone’ just before the break. It was great to see the enthusiasm from both adults and children as they drank in this new conversation along with the juice provided.
As the session drew to a close, and the children’s song ‘Our God is Great’ had been a hit, I talked with the teachers to see if we could enjoy this again as our last rendition. They agreed and asked the children to stand in the centre of the room and teach the residents the actions again. It was wonderful to view the arms, teddies, dogs and faces being lifted as they joined in, learning new words and movements for future sessions. The teacher asked if the children would like to visit again to which they received a resounding ‘yes’, accompanied with ‘it was fun’. One lady stopped the teacher and added ‘it has been absolutely wonderful, please come again’. We have other sessions planned in the diary so they will indeed come again! Adults chatted eagerly about how much they have enjoyed it, how it brought the setting to life, and how they can’t wait to see them again.
So, how do we measure happiness? From what I witnessed today I would say ‘peep into Wickham Hall lounge on the next intergenerational singing session’ and I feel you will witness what I may not be able to put into words here, but what was as real as you or I in that same lounge today.