It had been a rough week in Fisher House. A couple families had loved ones pass away. Others had patients who were gravely ill. The atmosphere was gloomy. I got to work on Friday morning and manager Cecile Bagrow stopped me at the office door. "I have decided that no one comes into this office today unless they do a Soul Train line dance!" She turned on some Marvin Gaye and said, "You can come in, but you'd better be dancin'".
She made the same announcement to the housekeepers Any time they came in they had to dance. (You really haven't lived until you've seen a housekeeper empty a waste basket to "Got to Give it Up").
Then the real fun started. Every time a guest came to the office door Cecile would jump up from her desk saying, "Stop!" She'd run to the boom box, tell the guest what was going on, hit the 'play' button and say, "Now dance!" Old and young, black and white, adults and children, each one complied. They'd dance in, first a little hesitantly and then, as Cecile and I clapped and danced on either side, each guest would drop the sheepish grin, burst into a smile and bust a move. Everyone played along, even an older woman with a walker! (Now that.was a sight!)
Each guest would boogie from one end of the office to the other, then Cecile would turn off the music, sit at her desk and ask, very professionally, "What can we do for you today?" It was silly and frivolous. It was fun and sometimes downright hysterical. But the Day of the Soul Train Line Dance accomplished an important purpose. Gloom was replaced by light and sadness got smacked down by joy and laughter.
Some days, you just have to dance.
While others were devising elaborate pranks and fake news stories, the guests of VA Puget Sound Fisher House were celebrating April Fruits Day.
Guest Mike K has been in the House for several months, tending to his brother. Mike is the kind of guy who never met a stranger, who has a big heart and a big laugh. He is always looking for ways to help out other guests and staff (more than once he's lent a hand when one of the housekeepers had to be out). Mike used to live and work in LA, working in catering and craft services (the food provided for actors and crew on movie sets). Get him started on the subject of food and wine...he knows his stuff.
One day he was showing pictures of some of the fruit displays he's done for events. "I should do something like this for the other guests," he said. "That would be fun". Fun indeed. April Fruits Day was born! Mike spent weeks thinking about his theme (a mountain) and planning, He visited McPherson's, the produce stand j near the hospital, to order the freshest and best produce. Then he spent hours and hours cutting fruit, making banana balls* and arranging the display.
Folks stood around, awed and delighted. But no one wanted to be the first to disturb the work of art. Mike grabbed a big strawberry, popped it into his mouth and said, "OK? Now eat!" Delighted guests filled plates for themselves, then made up packets to take to their patients and the nurses who care for them.
Mike was pleased with the reaction. "I want to find a way to give back," he said. We'd say he found a spectacular (and delicious) method.
Banana Balls: Cut firm but ripe bananas into chunks (about 1" thick). Put on a parchment line baking pan and freeze for a couple hours, until firm. Dip frozen chunks into yogurt, then roll in flaked coconut. Return to freezer until ready to serve. And if you happen to has some warm chocolate sauce for dipping, all the better!