“Hold on tight to your chopsticks!”
“Let’s start our Lo Hei!”
“Wishing everybody good luck, progress in life, happiness, good health…”
A loud, cheery voice rattled off these familiar and auspicious Chinese New Year greetings with much vigour.
“Oh no! My arms are not long enough, they’re aching…” said an elderly lady.
The alert youth volunteer who stood beside her quickly responded: “It’s alright, Granny. Let me help you with the Lo Hei.”
The volunteer was part of a team from the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association, which held a joyous Chinese New Year celebration with the elderly residents at SASCO Senior Citizens’ Home on 25th February this year.
The whole team was united in love, in sending blessings of the lunar new year to the “grandpas and grannies”, bringing with them the nourishing warmth of human love into the nursing home on a hot afternoon.
The volunteers specially introduced a segment of “Lo Hei” to the CNY celebration this year. Every table held a plate of vegetarian Yu Sheng, leading everyone to bubble over with joy and excitement.
As a heart-warming Tzu Chi sign language song kicked off the festivities, the emcee immediately captured the attention of everyone in a lively way.
“Ah Hsiung, do you know there is Wu Shi (i.e. lion dance) today?”
“Wu Shi (i.e. the number ‘50’ in Mandarin)? I have $50……”
“I’m not talking about money; it’s a Chinese New Year lion dance!”
Then the emcee gave a loud call and two adorable “lions” and a Chinese “gourd doll” made their grand entrance into the venue. The old folks were quickly captivated by the cute costumed characters; some of them even patted the heads of the “lions” and held the hands of the gourd doll. As the senior citizens soaked in the joyful atmosphere, it stirred warm memories of past Chinese New Year festivities and laughter from their younger days…
After the lion dance, three youth volunteers performed two popular Chinese New Year songs on Gu Zheng. Then, a Tzu Chi bursary recipient, Wang Xin Hang, together with an elderly resident, Lv Ying Kui, jointly performed an Er Hu duo. The familiar tune of the Chinese oldie played on the Er Hus led the elderly audience into a nostalgic reliving of the glory days of their youth in the 60s and 70s.
Even though the “youth and elderly” pair onstage barely knew each other before their joint performance, they practised earnestly together to cultivate mutual rapport. The budding seeds of their kind hearts and heartfelt performance tugged at the heartstrings of everyone present, and the lively Chinese music brought peals of laughter and joyful smiles to the faces of the elderly residents.
“Let’s give our warmest welcome to the God of Fortune!”
A mentor of the youth volunteers, who was decked up in the traditional garb of the Chinese God of Fortune and holding a golden ingot prop in his hand, made his appearance with an entourage of volunteers bearing mandarin oranges. They then proceeded to distribute red packets and the oranges to all the senior citizens present, much to the latter’s delight.
As the festive atmosphere continued to warm up by the lively activities, the volunteers constantly stayed by the side of the grandpas and grannies to serve them. Chen Yan Yi, who was formerly from Tzu Chi’s Teenagers’ Class said, “It was a bit awkward at the beginning, as I didn’t really know how to interact with the seniors…..”
Another graduate from the Teenagers’ Class, Fang Qiao, said, “We learn from the older collegiate brothers and sisters how to accompany and care for the elderly.”
Both youngsters felt that their presence were the best form of support for the home’s residents. Indeed, the power of love lies in building bridges between people, regardless of race or age, and despite age and language barriers.
There is a Jing Si Aphorism that goes, “Those who are being loved and capable of loving others are equally blessed.” The collegiate volunteers had specially taken time from their precious Sunday to take part in this meaningful activity in the nursing home, transmitting warmth and love to the aged seniors. Perhaps this might be only an occasional participation for the youths, but to the old folks, it was the day they had eagerly anticipated in the month!