Housed in the village municipal offices, the Essex Area Senior Center provides programming for adults ages 50 and up. (Photo by Michaela Halnon)

By Lou Ann Pioli

Coordinator, Essex Area Senior Center

Last month was February, a month decorated with hearts and flowers and a focus on love. When much of our current news seems to be about hate and prejudice and divisiveness and tragedy, it makes it difficult sometimes to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I hope this month’s article provides some of that much needed “light” to your day and your heart.

At the senior center, above our oversized calendar, is a simple sign that reads, “Notice Kindness.” Dozens of our seniors were gifted extraordinary kindness this week. It all began several weeks ago when I received an email from a very special person in the Essex community, Karen Alderman of Karen’s Kloset. Karen said that there were people in the community who would like to sponsor some of our seniors for Valentine’s Day, and she wondered if I could provide her with some first names, ages and one or two items they might like in honor of the holiday. Karen would take it from there. I was incredibly touched by Karen’s thoughtfulness and enthusiasm. I know many of our seniors are missing their “valentines” each year, or haven’t celebrated this holiday in a long time, and I could just imagine the happiness this gesture would bring to them.

I managed to gather information from 21 of our seniors and shared it with Karen. A few days later, I was a little shocked when Karen again reached out to me, telling me that all of her heart tags were gone, and asking if I could provide more names! I was able to provide 13 more names.

The Monday before Valentine’s Day, one of our volunteers went to Karen’s Kloset to retrieve the gifts Karen had gathered. When he walked into the center with his arms filled and telling me he would have to make a few more trips to his vehicle, I got goosebumps and couldn’t stop the tears from filling my eyes. There were beautifully decorated gift bags and envelopes and boxes and small heart balloons and so much more.

But it wasn’t the tangible items that got to me. It was the love and compassion that I felt with each arrival. So many perfect strangers reached into their hearts to share kindness with another human being. It’s so simple, yet so profound! It’s exactly what not just Valentine’s Day, but every day should be about … sharing kindness, loving each other, having hope.

Over the past several days, I’ve been blessed with being able to witness the joy, excitement, and yes, some tears, as our seniors read their notes and opened their special gifts. It’s something I will never forget and will forever be grateful for.

To Karen and to all the wonderful donors, heartfelt thanks. We hope to see all of you at a special dessert social in honor of you and our seniors on Sunday, March 18 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. so you can have an opportunity to meet each other. To our readers, a challenge: Reach into your hearts today and spread some kindness. Remember, even a small, positive gesture can have an enormous effect, not only on the recipient, but on the giver as well. And, if you want to keep hope alive, make it a habit to notice kindness.

Reminder: The luncheon previously scheduled for February 7 at CTE has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 14. February tickets will be honored.

Essex Area Senior Center is located at Five Corners in Essex Jct., the white annex to the village municipal offices. For more information, please call 876-5087 or visit our website at