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A Quaker Retirement Community Faces the Pandemic

© Solarisys

 

My husband, Hal, stepped out of our apartment and into the hall just before 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. He began walking down the hall, playing on his harmonica a zippy version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” People had been waiting. Doors opened, and our neighbors stood in their doorways—well over the designated six‐feet apart—and began waving and greeting one another. This constituted our “call to worship,” and the beginning of a new pattern.

We live on the fifth floor of the Manor, one of the 13 neighborhoods in Friendsview, a retirement community in Newberg, Oregon. Founded in 1961 by Quakers in the Northwest, Friendsview residents come from many different faith communities. But Quaker values are maintained. The mission statement commits:

to provide active residential living and quality continuing care to seniors in a Christ‐centered community. To that purpose residents, staff, and board of directors covenant together to uphold the following values: integrity, stewardship, compassion, community, excellence, dignity, service, and Friends heritage.

It’s been encouraging to watch the fleshing out of those values in this current pandemic crisis and, especially, to experience the creative ways residents are joining the staff to keep safe and, at the same time, affirm life. It’s not easy.

So, back to the fifth floor. After the call to worship, we all joined in singing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” followed by “This Is the Day that the Lord Hath Made.” Howard played a song on his trumpet; then we sang “America the Beautiful” and the doxology, and ended by reciting the Lord’s Prayer in loud voices. We stood in our doorways laughing, shouting (some are hard of hearing, especially at six feet), and waving for another few minutes. We are already planning next Sunday’s worship; we might add in a moment of long‐distance silence.


It’s been encouraging to watch the fleshing out of those values in this current pandemic crisis and, especially, to experience the creative ways residents are joining the staff to keep safe and, at the same time, affirm life.


Friendsview encourages resident initiative in its activities, to be carried out through various committees. It’s fun to see how some of these are responding, now that social distancing prevents physical face‐to‐face meetings. The photography club is issuing a daily challenge to its apartment‐bound members. Every day they are to take a photo of some part of their apartment and post it on a common website. Some of the challenges have been “the snacks on my kitchen counter,” “a picture on the wall that means something to me,” “what’s on my refrigerator door today,” and “what do I see outside my window right now.” My friend Gary responded to that last prompt with a photo of the critters on his balcony—some birds and a squirrel. He says many people are responding. Creativity is flourishing as people find beauty (or an interesting strangeness) in mundane stuff.

The writers’ group that I belong to has initiated an open‐any‐time email conversation where we post something we’ve written in the past week (whether polished and publication‐ready or something from our journal) or tell about a good book we’re reading. One member recently shared a story about the time a gang of girls tackled him and threatened to cut off his mustache. It, of course, happened many years ago. (He still has a mustache.)

The arts and crafts committee members are posting a weekly theme (so far it’s been “flowers,” followed by “rocks”) and have opened a web page where residents share works completed or in process. Fortunately, those of us who don’t see ourselves as “real” artists are encouraged to share, right along with the experienced artists among us. It’s been very stimulating.

Left: © Lubo Ivanko. Right: © Lightfield Studios

 

One project, not connected to a committee, has been the sewing of face masks. The staff issued a call to all residents with sewing machines and provided packets of patterns and material. Many have taken on this challenge, with the resulting masks to be used here at Friendsview and around the local community as needed.

My friend Linda made 40 masks for Friendsview until the packets ran out. Since then she’s been making them from her own supply of fabric and experimenting with how to add a lining to the simple cloth mask. She’s found that reusable grocery bags make good lining material. Linda says that all this “gives me something to do other than think of all the possibilities of the crisis. I feel like I’m helping.”

Left: © sebra. Right: © toa555

 

In another Friendsview neighborhood across town, Springbrook, a resident named Kathleen had been researching and preparing for epidemics for several years. She shared the results of her research about the effectiveness of bonded interfacing material as the most protective inner lining for masks. With the help of another resident, they purchased 100 yards of interfacing from a local fabric store. Kathleen perfected a pattern that will increase the protective value of the masks. She and her husband are cutting materials, while other resident volunteers are making masks for each of the 65 people in their neighborhood.

They will donate any excess material so that other neighborhoods can benefit.

An important source of life here at Friendsview is the beauty of our surroundings. While apartment‐ or room‐bound, we are still encouraged to walk outside at least once a day. Yesterday Hal and I walked the Hess Creek Canyon trail, admiring the new green of the leaves, sensing the contrast between two separate realities: the pandemic loose on the world and the coming of spring. Today we’ll wander in the community garden, in full springtime bloom. If we happen to come upon another wandering resident, we’ve learned to make wide detours and greet one another from a distance. As we re‐enter the building, we wash our hands, have our temperatures taken, and sign in.

A resident‐initiated committee on health and safety (begun several months before the coronavirus manifested) is actively partnering with a crisis task force the administration has set up to daily monitor the situation, make needed changes, and communicate these to everyone. I love it that residents are involved and have input into decisions.

The attitudes and level of care of both administration and staff continue to demonstrate Friendsview’s Quaker Christian values. I love the way the leaders are attempting to care for the staff as well as the residents, bringing in groceries and medications so that no one needs to go out into the community. Requirements are changing every day as new information comes in. Today we will start receiving our meals in containers outside our doors, according to menu choices we make. I imagine more restrictive measures will come later this week. We’re learning to expect these, but because of the dignity with which we’ve been treated, most residents trust these decisions and willingly comply.


The daily news and updates from friends and family in different parts of the world paint a darker scene. Although it feels like we live on a protected island in the midst of the chaos swirling around us, I know this is not true.


Irealize, as I write this, I’m presenting a positive picture. The daily news and updates from friends and family in different parts of the world paint a darker scene. Although it feels like we live on a protected island in the midst of the chaos swirling around us, I know this is not true. Already the first resident has tested positive for the virus and is under quarantine. We’re told that the worst is yet to come. It would be naïve to imagine it will not affect us here.

At some point the overwhelming crisis of the pandemic will be over, effective treatments found, and the country on the road to recovery. In the meantime, faith battles fear. I, along with many others, take time to pray for the world, affirming that “the darkness has never overcome the light” (John 1:5). And, in the encouraging company of my fellow and sister residents in this community, we do what we can to reach out, bless others, and choose life.

Nancy Thomas lives with her husband, Hal, in Friendsview, a retirement community in Newberg, Ore. They’ve served in Bolivia many years as Friends Serving Abroad. She is a poet, the poetry editor of Friends Journal, and a member of North Valley Friends Church in Newberg.

Posted in: Features, Friends Face a Pandemic/Thin Spaces

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2 thoughts on “A Quaker Retirement Community Faces the Pandemic

  1. Pat Walker says:

    City & State
    Sheffield Uk
    Hello Nancy, I have just read your piece on life in your community. I read that you have just had your first community member with the virus. I will hold you all in the Light.
    I am a member of Sheffield Central Quaker Meeting, having found Quakers in later life. I am very thankful to have been accepted into this loving community. We are quite a big meeting and for the time being meeting electronically on something called Zoom. I have not been well (not coronavirus)so have missed a lot of meetings and missed Ffriends. I am hoping to return to meeting as soon as possible.
    I send my love and best wishes for good health to you all. Thank you for sharing this chunk of your quaker lived experience. Pat

  2. Barbara Jones says:

    City & State
    Kalamazoo, Michigan
    SURPRISES; A EMPLOYEE ASKED ME IF HER SON COULD WRITE TO ME. AS
    YOU MAY KNOW, NO SCHOOL. HIS FATHER SAID: WOMEN DON’T LIKE TO BE
    ASKED THEIR AGE. HE IS 10. OF COURSE, IT MADE ME SMILE AND I WROTE AND TOLD. 88.. I ALSO TOLD HIM SOMETHINGS I HAVE LEARNED. ONE WAS: SING
    A SONG WHEN HE MAKES HIS BED , IT WILL GO FASTER. MEDITATE: TAKE A
    DEEP BREATH, SAY THE WORD PEACE. HE WANTS TO BE A PILOT, HE LIKES TO
    FISH WITH HIS DAD AND GRANDPA. THIS INTERACTION HAS BEEN FUN FOR ME AND HE INITIATED THE EFFORT. AS WE KNOW SOME OF US ARE JUST TALL PEOPLE, BUT WISDOM COMES FROM CHILDHOOD ENERGY. IF WE LISTEN. I ALSO TALK ON THE PHONE WITH A COLLEGE STUDENT WHO IS
    A FOSTER STUDENT AND NO FAMILY. THIS IS THROUGH A PROGRAM ESTABLISHED THROUGH WESTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY AND WHERE I
    LIVE FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE , KALAMAZOO, MI. WE REACH OUT IN MANY WAYS
    PROVIDING PROGRAMS OF SOCIAL CONCERN. SO WE TOO, ARE NOT ABLE
    TO DO ALL THE THINGS WE NORMALLY DO . BUT WE KNOW THIS TIME WILL PASS AND WE WILL KEEP AMOVIN’ I IMAGINE THE PEOPLE YOU LIVE WITH AND HOW THE ENERGY OF GOODNESS PASSES BETWEEN. AND THE DONG
    OF THE BELL CALLS YOU IN GRATITUDE. BARBARA.

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