You are on page 1of 9

Cameron Benson

Professor Dibble
Humanities 1100

Civic Engagement

Is making a resident of a retirement home smile considered civic
engagement? The Bridgeview Estates In Twin Falls, Idaho was where I would
explore this question within a community of elderly. On Friday, October 15,
2016 I received a phone call that confirmed my ability to visit the retirement
home for Saturday, October 16th and spend time playing games, listening to
stories, and hopefully seeing many smiles from the residents as possible. The
decision to volunteer at a retirement home came to life due to the loss of my
great-grandmother who passed away at the age of 94 in a home. Every few
weeks I would visit her and hear amazing stories (sometimes they were the
same stories told over and over because sadly she suffered from dementia),
but every time I visited her I was excited and it made me feel such personal
joy. Since I have volunteered at homes before, I expect this to be a great
personal experience because it instills a care-giving personality within myself
and it reminds me of my past visits with my great-grandmother. For the
residents, I hope the experience will improve the quality of these folk’s care

and happiness through my ability to give them a new friend who wants
nothing more than to hear about their lives and family outside of the home.
The civic life of communication with our nation’s retirees is something
that I believe people undervalue. Several of these folks have lived through
some of the biggest events in our nations history and are willing to spread
information and knowledge to individuals willing to listen. These people are
the backbone of our countries identity! The information and stories they
have to tell are sometimes of greater value than any book you could find in a
library. I hope from this experience I can learn more about the nation’s
history through the eyes of people who have created it, hear about what
made these folks happy in life, and help them smile from my visit. This is
how I believe volunteering at a retirement home relates to the overarching
idea of humanities. You are using real human interactions to not only
increase the happiness and well-being of each other, but you are learning
and listening from each other, forming a bond that shows the real value in
our lives.

For my Civic Engagement I chose to volunteer at The Bridgeview
Estates In Twin Falls, Idaho. I volunteered here on Saturday, October 16, 2016
for 3+ hours where I spend great amounts of time with many different
individuals playing games and listening to life stories during down time. One
of the most inspiring yet heartbreaking moments I had in the home was
during my time taking to a beautiful 96 year old woman named Beth. When I
sat down and started talking to Beth she began talking about her husband
Lester. She would tell me how everyday they would start their morning by
going for a stroll in their wheelchairs to a park nearby and watch the birds
play in the water while holding hands. After her detailed story about how
they had been high school sweethearts and lived in more than 23 states she
turned to me and grabbed my hand and with a huge smile on her face said,
“Derek, we have been married for 70 years and he is my reason for waking
up every morning. His love is why I live.” Obviously she was mistaking me for
someone else, but I was so happy for her that I went along with it and told
her how envious (truthfully) I was of her happiness. Within seconds of this
conversation, Beth asked me if I would find her husband so I could meet him.
I got up and asked a staff member if she knew where Lester was…only to
hear the devastating news that he has passed away 3 years ago and Beth

has since suffered from denial and dementia. If I’m being honest, I got really
emotional. The one thing that kept Beth motivated in life had died from old
age years ago and I could not come to communicate this reality with Beth. It
was heartbreaking.
During my visit I also visited with a 101 year old man named Edwin
who literally challenged me to a walking race down the hallway! He was
incredibly fit and mobile for his age. Although we did not end up racing, he
wanted to show me how well he could walk and do things at his age, so we
talked while we walked the hallways of the building. It made me laugh and
Edwin had the biggest smile on his face when I told him I had never seen
someone move around so well at his age. Aside from the crazy outgoing
personality Edwin had, he shared with me a life story of his that blew my
mind. In a short version, Edwin was a pilot in his prime (even though I could
say that’s ironic because he is still walking and engaging in activities at 101),
and would fly internationally to China for most of his career. He told me in his
30 years of flying, he never had an in flight accident, but one time he had to
switch a plane because something was wrong with the electrical. Everyone
on the plane got off and interestingly enough; a young American gal came up
to him and asked what happened. Long story short, they talked until the next
plane arrived and it started a 40-year marriage together before she died of
cancer. To this day, Edwin believes she’s watching him from above giving him
the strength to keep his good health at such an old age. Edwin and I actually
ate lunch together that day because I wanted to talk to him about aviation

because it is what I am hoping to major in. The insights he gave me on the
profession and the funny stories he told me over lunch only increased my
wanting to become a pilot. He had so much insight on the profession that
just last week I called the home to ask him another question I had. The
assistant informed me that, 4 days before I called, he had passed way in his
When I hear the term “civic engagement,” my first thought is activism
in the community. It’s an engagement that involves someone acting on his or
her feelings, hopeful to make a positive change in the world. To me, it’s the
responsibility that we have as citizens of this country. We have been blessed
with this power of freedom and democracy to where we can become
whatever we want in life. Yet, this said power, if you will, isn’t meant to be
gained alone. We need to share this gift with others and help build success
on a community level. My fortune to be able to volunteer at a retirement
home helped me gain a better understanding of the idea of civic
engagement. Putting a smile on someone’s face is one of the greatest civic
engagement duties, I think, we as humans can fulfill. There is a lot to be said
about the decreasing happiness in individuals as we progress into the future.
Whether that depression comes from hating a job, feeling unsuccessful, not
finding love, etc., people will not be able to make as great an impact on this
earth unless they are smiling while doing it. Now, I did visit a retirement
home where these individuals will spend the rest of their days on this earth,
not making much of a contribution to our outside society, but that’s what

people see from afar. What I realized is, these people have the answers!
They know what depression feels like, they know what love means; they
have lived it! By visiting with these people, I not only made them happy, but
I subconsciously made myself smile because I learned what happiness feels
like from people who have figured out how to beat life. It’s almost like the
phrase a picture is worth 10 thousand words. Retired folks have much more
to them then what is seen from the surface—it just takes one talk, or one
story to express this anomaly.
This volunteering enhanced me as a person. It should be someone
everyone engages in, whether it’s an hour a day or an hour a week, it gives
you new perspectives on life. I am beyond glad I had the opportunity to meet
the people I did and hear their stories. I would certainly be interested in a
similar activity in the future when my schedule allows.
I feel that this activity most closely relates to the topics that we
discussed in class in a direct and indirect manner. From a direct relation, this
civic engagement I participated in tied in with the topics of Identity and
responsibility. Civic engagement has a lot to do with our responsibility to our
communities. In America we can enjoy so much freedom to be civically engaged in many
different ways, and as such it is a corresponding responsibility to attend lectures, learn history,
and participate in volunteer work. This helps us understand the needs of our community, and
connects us with diverse groups of people from other communities or backgrounds. I feel that
talking and spending time with each of the seniors abled me to grasp the real ideas about how
civic engagement can come forth in some of the most beautiful, yet overlooked ways. By

stepping away from your normal daily routine and taking a few hours to meet such a wide
variety of brilliant, honest human beings, you not only create an intangible connection of
happiness and life between each other, but you grow and learn as an individual (at least I did).
Seeing the smiles on the faces of the seniors reminded me that sometimes all we as humans need
is a reason to feel acceptance and approval, which is something people in todays world are
desperately wanting. This said approval isn’t gained in the act of trying to fit in though—it’s
gained by knowing that there are great people in the world that are willing to be there for you
and help you win the game of life. This personal gain is how I believe Aristotle’s theme of
happiness and the good life indirectly tied into my opportunity. These are themes that express
how what we as humans do today have a great impact on the outcomes of tomorrow. The idea of
happiness is not a state, but rather an activity that best leads our lives to give it meaning— my
experience proved completely efficacious to this idea.
There’s a lot to be said about the post-reflection of any activity, but in my case the
signature assignment. The outlooks I have on my abilities/strengths in Humanities are great—but
there are aspects I have been focused on improving with the continuation of assignment and
lectures this year. With the finalization of the signature assignment in particular, I felt I finally
reached the level of success as a writer and critical thinker I was stretching towards. This
assignment put a huge focus on my ability to use critical thinking to see the positive impacts that
engagement within the community can create. After walking out of The Bridgeview Estates
on that particular Saturday, I knew what I had just done was great, but it
wasn’t until sitting down and having to rethink the event into words that it
really hit me that this event was truly powerful. In the example I shared
about Edwin, it never crossed my mind until I started writing that even

through losing his wife to cancer and no longer working his dream job, he still
found parts of life for which to be grateful and smile about. That is something
that so many individuals struggle with in the 21st century and from a
personal standpoint, it almost gave me this feeling of strength. A 101-yearold man still finding a reason to wake up early morning with a smile on his
face looking to conquer any debacle placed in front of him—truly amazing.
This assignment also made me step back for a second a do a personal
evaluation of myself, and where I stand as a community contributor.
Although I did realize I do great things for the community I live, I have
created a goal for myself to do more. As a writer, this assignment took a lot
from me, but I loved the challenge and came out of it feeling very confident
in my abilities to write.
This signature assignment did come with a few problems, but
thankfully I was able to work around them. My first issue was deciding what
to do for the assignment. My first, and what I thought would be my finalized
decision was to visit a Mormon church on Sunday and listen to a speaker talk
about the life experiences and the religion. The reason I did not end up doing
this was because I have visited a church before with my Mormon roommate
and wanted to branch out do something that involved a one on one
conversation/activity with someone. From this, I remembered the retirement
home my great-grandmother used to live in, and decided I would revisit
there. The next issue I had was procrastination. I did visit the home fairly
early after exploring the civic engagement assignment, but I waited quite

awhile to write the actual paper. This did not hurt me much though because
there is still over a week before the assignment is due. The last issue I
encountered was choosing how to write about my experience. If I wanted and
had the ability, I could have written 15+ pages on this assignment just on
the conversations I had with some of the seniors. Saying this, the two
examples I used, to me, had the greatest impact on a personal level—which
is why I chose them. To look back and evaluate my assignment as a whole, I
am extremely happy. I got to prove to myself that making a senior smile or
laugh is one of the most precious ways I could have civically engaged myself
in the community.