Joshua Meribole-Staff Writer
The elderly sit, listen and watch. As they move to a different location to sing, a senior citizen clasps her hands tightly, another gently begins to mouth the words from memory and another, his back facing the students, turns to glance at the young angelic voices as he folds his hands.
“So you did come after all,” the lady in the wheelchair says. She is friendly and interested in knowing about what is going in the lives of the singers.
Dordt students typically spend their Sundays either playing sports, binging shows of Nexflix or doing the homework that they have been procrastinating on for the whole weekend. But for a certain group of Dordt students, it’s the art of singing to the elderly that occupies a portion of their Sunday afternoon.
What began as a small idea formed nine years ago by a few students turned into a tradition deemed ‘Sunday Singing.’ Every Sunday afternoon, six-to-fourteen Dordt students of all ages visit the senior residents at Royale Meadows Care Center in Sioux Center. The core group of individual who engage in this form of outreach in the community are brother and sister Andrew and Janelle Cammenga, Kylie and Tanner Van Whye, Rebecca Nymeyer and Kolter Brandshaw.
“Good singers,” said an elderly individual to someone close by as hymns spread across the room and down the hallway.
On Sundays, the small choir typically leaves the clock tower on Dordt Campus at 4:40pm, though this Easter Sunday, with services in their church moved earlier in the day, the group will visit the elderly one hour earlier.
Upon arriving at Royale Meadows, students meander through the hallways, sharing words of prayer and song. They stand in a broken circle with their backs facing each other, hymnals in their hands, while their voices carry in different directions throughout the open rooms.
Their first Easter Sunday piece is Christ Alone Has Risen Today. The members of the group are smiling, and when they finish singing they begin to speak with the senior residents.
After they have finishing singing, the elderly individuals initiate the common game of Dutch Bingo with the students.
Joan, who came to visit her friend at Royale Meadows, led the conversation. After asking for the names and locations of each student, Kyle, an individual from one of the two sets of siblings present, spoke her name and offered a possible suggestion of a family relation that Joan and the older dlderly might know. Once a familiar name popped up, there was a moment of “ah” among the crowd and a resonant feeling of success.
After singing for their first group, the students moved on to different locations throughout Royale Meadows. Each time they sing those in attendance are quietly listening. One man who had his back turned from the group folded his arms and listened intently while the woman sitting right next to him began to mouth the words of the song.
While finishing up in their last room after spending their voices in various rooms in Royale Meadows, a man stood up from his chair and moved to the door with a fellow female resident just to see who was singing.
“Some of the songs, we knew them from a long time,” said the woman. “We appreciate it when they come and sing.”
When these students were asked why they choose to spend their afternoons singing to the elderly, Andrew Cammenga, a senior engineering major, answered, “Were given a voice, why not use it on something?” Cammenga then added that the elderly provide such knowledge and insight, information gained after years of living and experiencing.
“Everybody has a story; it’s fun to hear about it.”