Unwrapping Gifts at Full Life Center

Posted by Sue Visser, Kindergarten Teacher

The First Graders, Kindergartners, and Second graders are making a difference, and have been doing so for the last ten to twelve years. Several times during the school year, we visit a place called Full Life Center, a daycare facility for the elderly, stroke patients, and physical and developmentally disabled. They contacted our school to see if we would be interested in visiting their facility several times per year. The first graders partner with either Kindergarten or the second grade class and recite a Bible passage, sing some songs (both Bible and other ones) and then complete a craft with the clients.

We describe these outings as service field trips to our students. It’s not easy going there. It pushes us out of our comfort zone, both the teachers and the students. The clients look and act different, they can be loud; some don’t talk at all, some talk too much; some hug too much; some are slumped over, some are unresponsive, some drool; some can get angry. The room is cramped and cluttered. There are often some interesting smells.  The workers who plan the craft are not always prepared for twenty some children or the crafts are not age appropriate. So our kids will need to share tools and materials. There is not always enough space. They may have to navigate around wheelchairs; the kids can’t reach the materials; sometimes we have to go to the back room.

It’s very interesting how our students respond as they interact with the people. For some kids and teachers, it makes them feel uncomfortable, some even get scared. Some parents raise concerns or dismiss it as not a fun trip. But we keep doing it and we see growth. Maybe the first time is a bit scary for them, but the next time gets easier. By the time they reach second grade they will have visited Full Life Center eight times. It is exciting to see some children, often the ones you least expect, shine. They talk to the people, even give their craft away, rather than take it home.

Most importantly, we provide some sunshine and love to this group of people. They enjoy the songs, and some will join us on familiar ones, such a Love Me Tender and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A few will say they haven’t heard a Bible song since they were a child. They enjoy having children nearby, coloring with them, talking with them. They remember us. A few become quite excited when they see our group.

One lady, Ivetta, a Russian immigrant, loves to join us when singing and is so excited to see us. Last time, she gave me such a bear hug I thought I would fall over. She grew up in Baku, and would converse with some of our students who speak Russian. It made her happy. Another gentleman, Ernesto, would speak Spanish with Nancy and then this year spoke Spanish with one of our students.

Part of our school’s mission is unwrapping our students’ gift. So often that refers to academics. This field trip is about unwrapping and developing the gift of compassion and service.  Our children are learning to be the hands and feet of Jesus.