By Toros Asadourian & Friends
Armenian college students from all over the country gathered at St. Nersess Seminary from January 4-7 for the annual Christmas conference fashioned after the ever popular summer conferences. On Armenian Christmas Eve, a special visit was made to the Armenian Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Emerson, New Jersey, during which Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, St. Nersess Director of Youth and Vocations, led a worship service. The participants learned the Christmas hymn, Khorhourt Medz and sang it beautifully for all the residents. Here was an opportunity to put faith into action.
"The Armenian Old Age home is a place which embodies the strength and healing power of the Armenian spirit. As we approached this haven, an overwhelming pride and comfort enveloped me as my eyes met the Armenian letters on the exterior of the building which read: Hye Doon[Armenian Home]. The Armenian people have endured centuries of struggle, and as our ever expanding diaspora plants seeds throughout the world, our elderly are those seeds developed. They each have a story to tell. They are a living past and represent a world of experiences unimaginable to young adults today. Hye Doon brings our elders, with all their wisdom and passion together, and the result is a place which the Armenian identity and culture is alive and well."
Van Nuys, CA
"I believe that the visit to the Nursing home was very pleasurable and interesting. Before the visit, I believed older people to be fragile and weak--until Isabelle played the piano for us. I was amazed by the energy of some of the elderly when dancing with them. You were able to tell that they enjoyed themselves while watching us. We gave them an opportunity to share their experiences and give us advice for the future."
"I enjoyed my time at the old age home. At first I was nervous as I did not really know what to expect or what the people would be like. Soon after our arrival however it became clear that the residents were good people with interesting stories to tell. I enjoyed going around and talking to them. They were very friendly and full of energy. Singing and dancing was fun as well as unexpected and I liked that the older people tried to join in rather than just sit there isolated. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves. I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet them and to make a difference for them."
The unique experience shared by all of us could not have been possible without the day-to-day efforts of the staff at the home. It was obvious to all of us, through the words of the residents and through our experience, that all residents of the Hye Doon were loved and cared for with only the highest regard for Armenian tradition. The embodiment of that tradition is family, and that is how we were greeted and regarded. With good food, good friends, and the wisdom of those that preceded us all, we are fortunate to have spent our Christmas Eve at the Emerson Retirement & Rehabilitation Home--Our Hye Doon.
"We will definitely do this again," said Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian. "During our summer programs, we will make plans to visit both Armenian homes in New Jersey and in New York," Fr. Stepanos continued, adding, "It was a life changing experience for many of our participants. Prior to the visit they were anxious and apprehensive about visiting the elderly in a nursing home. After spending three hours talking, listening, praying, laughing and sharing stories, our participants from St. Nersess were able to see the face of Jesus in all of the elderly and staff."
The staff from the Armenian home applauded our efforts and thanked the group, saying, "You truly have lifted the spirits of our staff and residents. At the end of the day, please realize the great and wonderful deed you performed this afternoon here at our Armenian Home."