“When we share our stories, what it does is, it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.” – Janine Shepherd
The people who live at Juniper Village at Brookline are amazing; just ask any staff member on the campus. In fact, one of the benefits of working at Juniper Village is spending time with some of the most interesting people around. When people spend time together, they share stories: some of days gone by, some with pearls of wisdom, some with excitement about what’s happening tomorrow. And whether the storytellers realize it or not, their words are like gems to the ears that hear them. Inspired by a treasure chest overflowing with gems, Juniper staff members began talking about how to share these stories with the broader community and honor the men and women behind them.
In the fall of 2016, a creative spark ignited between Juniper Village at Brookline and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book when employees from both institutions began talking about the power of sharing one’s stories. From that conversation, a partnership was born that would ultimately become Poems from Life. Co-produced by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book (an affiliate of the Library of Congress), Poems from Life is a unique program that pairs professional poets in the region with residents from Juniper Village to create original poetry based on stories from the residents’ lives. The project culminates with a poetry reading and reception, where the poetry is publicly shared for the first time with the residents, their families, Juniper staff and the community-at-large. This year’s inaugural Poems from Life event was held on April 11 at Juniper Village at Brookline and featured nine original poems about nine individual residents.
When Poems from Life began, everyone knew it had the potential to be something special, but no one quite realized the impact the project would have on both the poet and the subject. The process involved poets meeting with residents several times over a 6-week period. Over that time, as stories were shared, residents and poets began to realize they had more in common than they thought. When asked about his experience in meeting with poet Teresa Stouffer, Tom Roush, Juniper Village at Brookline resident replied,
“When I first met Teresa, I thought she was very young, and I wasn’t sure how it would go. She wasn’t even alive to know about things I was talking about.” With a twinkle in his eye, Tom continued, “But I taught her. It was a very nice experience for me.”
Thanks to Poems from Life, Tom’s daughter now considers Teresa to be part of their family and has even invited her to the annual Juniper Family Picnic. From poetNicole Miyashiro, Pennsylvania Center for the Book collaborator,
“Spending time with Stan I learned that he’d tended a farm, served in the navy, and contributed to groundbreaking science, but I was most taken by his current passion for watercolor painting. While attending art class with him, I saw his work ethic and zest for life in action, and this was a treat! His enthusiasm reminded me that joy is found in the present moment and by giving it your all.” Nicole added, ““It was a remarkable journey, and the resulting experience for all truly embodied the power of words to connect people.”