Before my experience at the Prescott-Joseph Center (PJC) began, the word “Bingo” reminded me of the farmer’s dog whose name-o was also Bingo. B-I-N-G-O… I’m sure all of you remember. If asked what the word “bingo” reminds me of today, my answer would be entirely different.
For these last 8 weeks, I have been the staff member given the privilege to call the Bingo games for the senior citizens who visit PJC every other Wednesday of the month for our “Senior Lunch and Bingo”. This definitely wasn’t in my job description but I was happy to spend some time out of my office interacting with the elderly of the community. Before calling my first game, a colleague of mine informed me that the seniors are very particular about who calls their games. She told me not to be offended if they asked me to stop calling. My excitement for this bi-monthly event immediately turned into anxiety. Would they like me? Should I politely decline the opportunity before I’m booed out of the bingo room? I decided to look past this apprehension and call the game. To my surprise, I was allowed to call every game that day.
The next Bingo, I planned to silently deny the job of being the Bingo caller so that I’d quit while I’m still ahead. The seniors didn’t allow me to do this. Not only did they remember who I was, but they were also asking for the “intern boy” who called the game 2 weeks earlier. So far, I’ve called 4 games for the elderly who come to the Bingo lunches. These lunches have been more than a simple break from work. These seniors have truly taught me a lot about the West Oakland Community and a generation that is often overlooked. I got to celebrate Ms. Catherine’s 95th birthday with her. I frequently see Ms. Thelma as I bike to work or stop at the 7th Street Liquor store to grab an iced coffee. These 10 or 12 women who would find their way to PJC every 2 weeks have made my experience that much more enjoyable.
Recently, an unexpected dilemma has presented itself to my housemates and I. What will we do with the extra money that we did not use on our groceries for every week? As a group, we each agreed that we’d like to give back to the non-profits we’ve served at for the last 8 weeks. At first, I could not decide what to do with these extra funds. What could I give to PJC that would outlast my stay there? After thinking for a while, the answer presented itself to me. I would buy a new BINGO set for the seniors who visit PJC every 2 weeks. Unannounced to them, I had been using an incomplete BINGO set for the 4 events that I have called. The next caller won’t have to lie and pretend to call the numbers I-26 and I-28. The seniors won’t have to use black beans as markers. Hopefully, my gift will make them as happy as they’ve made me these last 8 weeks.