The Miraculous Power of the Beatles

(This clip will probably disappear when Apple discovers it.)

I was working as a children’s photographer at a Sears store. It was unfulfilling work. I had a pal I met in high school whose name was Terra. She was very pretty, was one of the prom queens, and had been in “swim timers”. She was also interested in service work. In high school I took photos of all the clubs. That’s how Terra and I became friends. She wanted some photos taken as a gift for the man who later became her husband. I shot a few rolls at scenic places in natural light, cropped, edited, and printed the results. When the subject is beautiful, it’s so easy.

I used to visit her for tea every few weeks. Terra liked me because I was funny, and we enjoyed talking about spiritual subjects. She suggested I ought to try volunteering where she did. It was a home for severely mentally impaired children. Out of 50, three or four could sit up by themselves. One of my favorites could speak a little. Her name was Anita, and she was blind, but still mischievous. She liked hiding the knowledge of her own name as a secret. If you wanted to amuse her, you would ask, “Who is this girl?” She would giggle, and finally relent, saying “A-ni-ti-ta!”

One of my other favorites was Annie. She was about 10, but her body was the size of a six year-old. She could not speak words, but she had clear preferences. If you said, “Annie, how about some chocolate pie?” she would smile, coo, and pull herself up on her arms. I held her in my arms like a baby and gave her water or juice. Holding her was like a version of the pieta. I took a picture of Annie at the Sears studio and carried it in my wallet for 20 years.

I was curious about what kind of stimulus might get through to these kids. In one of the closets on the ward, I discovered a 16mm projector. I decided to get a film through inter-library loan. I got a copy of Chuck Braverman’s Oscar-winning 1973 short “Condensed Cream of Beatles”. The film is an animation montage by a director known for those clip shows produced for the Oscar telecast each year.

We showed the film on a sheet taped to the wall. The caregivers were seated on the floor with their kids. When the Beatles songs began blasting out, the kids started moving in time to the music. They laughed and rocked and waved their arms happily all the way through. So did the workers. The supervisor of the ward said she had never seen anything like it.

All these children died young. It was a home for the most hopeless cases. It was my first experience in selfless service, in trying to care lovingly for those who could do nothing for themselves. I’m not a remarkable person, but I can say it changed me for the better, forever.

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10 Comments

Filed under Communications, Emotions, Ethics and Morality

10 responses to “The Miraculous Power of the Beatles

  1. Incredible experiences like that shape us forever. No wonder it still remains etched clearly in your memory. It makes me smile to think that these children made such an impact on you in their own ways. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes indeed. Each of us have transformative experiences. This one was when I was still in my early twenties. I volunteered there for one summer. I didn’t go into health care professionally for three decades. At the time I didn’t even know the names for their conditions; hydrocephaly, muscular dystrophy, fetal alcohol syndrome, lead poisoning. The children retained the personalities of babies, even the ones who lived to be teens, and they required constant care. That’s all I knew.

  2. Awesome article. Everyone should be required to serve others. How could you not be touched and humbled? I’ve always believed in the power of music and The Beatles are great in many ways, but I bet they would be tickled proud to know their music had an affect on these unique fans. :)

    • I agree with you completely, but I was raised to be tolerant, and at the same time to compete for resources. It was kind of bipolar philosophically. People like Terra helped me learn that you don’t have to compete if you can give it all away and cooperate.

      Thanks for dropping by, Cindy!

  3. Fantastic story, incredible movie clip. Touching, sad, happy.

  4. I’ve had similar experiences and it has inspired compassion, understanding as well as patience. It makes me incredibly sad though, however you contributed to them living a happy life while they were still with us. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

    • I accept that it’s sad and simultaneously beautiful. They died beloved, and knew they were. You can’t save them all. We say that often in health care, even though we still try. I’m gratified you came here for a return visit after I went to your site. Thanks for contributing.

  5. Great story! We strive so hard to gain money and things, when in reality it is the selfless giving that stays on as our happiest memories. Thanks for sharing!

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