Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Field Trips

Earlier this year Char and I were on a road trip in South Dakota. Char was in the passenger seat asleep, I was driving. That’s when I started thinking about my cooking class at the nursing home. Granted, doing a cooking class at a nursing home may not be everyone’s gift but I enjoy it. For whatever reason, it brings back great memories of my Father in law. When he was there he attended the cooking class. He would come to our house on the weekends with the recipe they made that week and often times he and I would recreate them. We had some great times in the kitchen even though he worked my butt off. He would read the recipe and tell me what to do. I, the good son in law, would do it. He would go back to the rehabilitation center, I would clean up the kitchen.

Driving through South Dakota thinking about it I decided I wasn’t happy with the results of my class. Many of the residents engaged but not at the level I wanted.

When we got back in town I resumed “teaching” the cooking class but with a twist. For two weeks I took them in a picture and told them a story about it. Then we “cooked” something that tied in with the photo. To my amazement the residents really started to engage a lot more. They started telling me stories, I told them stories, everyone (including me) started laughing and talking a whole lot more than when I was following the manual I was given at the beginning of this endeavor. And the class size grew.

After my two week trial I decided it was time to come clean. I went in and met with activity director and told him what I had been doing and the ‘manual’ wasn’t working for me and if need be I could find another place to volunteer. He smiled, took the manual and threw it on his desk. He told me he had had heard more laughter and chatter coming from the activity room during cooking class than any other time during the week. He also told me my pictures and recipes had become prized possessions of many of the residents. He told me about a guy that went down to the kitchen and told the cooks, “If you have a chance you should go to Ralph’s cooking class.” Then he told me what I wanted to hear – make it work for you and the residents.

Later that day I called a friend and told him what I had done. He replied, “Well, Ralph, if you think about it the farthest some of those people have been in a long time is from their room to the dining hall. You’re taking them on field trips.”

Today, I went to the nursing home and posted a picture of yesterday's class on the bulletin board. These pictures are also becoming a big hit. I got in the elevator with one of my “assistance's” and she remarked my class was really growing and becoming more and more popular. I told her it was the pictures. She then said, “It’s the pictures, it’s the food, it’s the stories, and it’s the fact that you take them on mental field trips getting them out of this place.”

There it was again, the words field trips.

So far we have been to Mount Rushmore, DeSmit, South Dakota, and a rodeo in Nebraska. I can hardly wait to take them to Palisade where we’re going to pick peaches.


Blogger Aravis said...

You're making such a difference and touching people's lives in a fundamental and meaningful way. Thank-you for what you're doing.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Granny Annie said...

Thankfully you are volunteering in a place that allows you to ditch the manual. Nursing home activities are near and dear concerns of my heart and you have truly come up with something that needs to be shared in many places.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

I can't wait for the Palisade trip either.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Live Well, Laugh Often and Love Much said...

What a fun post! I'm glad your friends love going on trips with you.It has ALWAYS been an adventure, each time I have been somewhere with you.Just hope they do not ever run out of gas in Iowa !

Look forward to hearing about the next trip !

7:28 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Ralph, you are doing such a wonderful service for those people!! God will truly bless you for it!! I'm sure they look forward to your class with great anticipation!!

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Lanny said...

Glad to hear your having a good time with your class.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Janell said...

Good job, Ralph. Keep it up!! I hope someone like you comes and does a cooking class like that when I get moved into a Home for the Bewildered.

8:57 PM  

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