L~ is a regular at our weekly ElderSparks gathering just outside of Trenton. At the end of the second session, while taking her to lunch in the dining room, I asked how she liked the food. She told me she had been a gourmet chef at home, inspired by a memorable meal she and her husband had in Paris once. I wondered if she had ever seen Julie and Julia, a film she would no doubt love. She hadn’t, but Julia Childs was one of her favorite shows on television. I passed this information on to the director of social services who wasn’t aware of L~’s prior culinary talents. She thought of several other residents who would probably enjoy the film and added it to her list of future programs.

Conversations like the one L~ and I had are not ElderSparks central focus, but they do add immeasurably to the work. The more we learn about our clients, the more responsive we can be to their needs and interests — either directly, or indirectly by being an extra set of eyes and ears for the social workers. In the end though, the simple act of connecting — whatever form it takes — may be the greatest contribution we and others make.