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Aug12WedA Salvation Army band brings unexpected joy to the residents of an Ottawa retirement home August 12, 2015 by Glenn van Gulik
The Salvation Army's Grace Manor is a long-term-care home located on Wellington Street in Ottawa. Every month, right around dinnertime on Sunday, the brass-band members from The Salvation Army Barrhaven Church visit Grace Manor and go floor to floor, playing songs and hymns for the residents.
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- Faith & Friends
This month, the band's a little thin. Only a few of us—consisting of older and younger band members—arrive, unpack our instruments, then split up into two groups, ready to move throughout the building's common areas and play for the residents. Later, we will meet up on the third floor and finish off with a few songs.
Our brass quartet begins its afternoon on the second floor, and six or seven residents come in close to listen, sing and enjoy the music. One of the residents asks us about our instruments, and what our names are. We happily answer her questions and that satisfies her curiosity.
A middle-aged man is sitting by the window with his father, an elderly resident focused intently on the music and smiling as we play. Both of them are enjoying their time together as the sun streams through the glass behind them on this warm Sunday afternoon.
As we finish and start to make our way toward the next common area, waves and goodbyes from our small audience fill the room. We wave back. “Have a great evening!” “Enjoy your dinner!” we reply to the residents, seated at their tables, waiting for their roast beef to be served.
We continue into the next common area. Shortly after the music starts, an elderly woman in a floral-print blouse wheels herself excitedly out from her room. She begins leading the band and clapping along to the hymns. I smile at the moment.
Another familiar face joins us, harmonica in hand, and plays along. This is his monthly opportunity to play with the band, and we always look forward to it. Our visits to Grace Manor just wouldn't be complete without him.
As we make our way back to the elevator, he stops us and begins playing a solo, a song he said he wrote years before. As he puts his harmonica back on his lap, he starts to sing in a gentle whisper the words of his song, repeating the chorus over and over: “Jesus saved me. Yes, He saved me.” I look to my left and see the band frozen in the moment, instruments by their sides, listening intently to all three verses.
The two groups join together on the third floor to play a final few hymns, and it isn't long before our visit comes to an end. All of us are feeling the effects of a long afternoon of playing and it's time to call it a day.
The band members shuffle into the elevator, the main floor button is pressed and the doors begin to close on our monthly visit. I pause for a moment and look around the elevator.
The band members are smiling as they talk about the people they have encountered: the curious woman with all of the questions, the elderly woman leading the band and our friend with the harmonica and original composition. Memories are being formed. They're the same memories that were etched into my own mind 25 years earlier, when I was a teenager and part of the Salvation Army band with my father, visiting retirement and nursing homes, bringing joy into the lives of those who listened.
This Salvation Army is as real and relevant today as it was then, and as it will be 25 years from now.
I can only hope and pray that the young men and women who participate in these life-changing, comfort-giving ministries today will one day be the ones who pick up the torch and lead other young people to do the same.
(Photo: Allen Bursey)