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In My Own Words: Josh Thau '20

Since 1992, Pingry has invited a group of senior citizens from a number of surrounding adult communities to its annual Intergenerational Prom. Pingry Upper Schoolers serve as hosts and wait staff, while others provide the entertainment. This year, 250 guests enjoyed the evening, which Director of Community Service and Civic Engagement Ms. Shelley Hartz calls, "a fixture of Pingry." Hear from one of the over 75 student volunteers about what made it so special.

"Aren't you cold?"—a question I was asked multiple times throughout the night during Pingry's annual Intergenerational Prom. I'll tell you my response a little later. I was standing outside, wearing a short-sleeve shirt, aiding our guests as they got off their buses. While out there, I noticed how excited they all were for the night they would soon be partaking in. All of them were so excited to come to a place where I have been a student for almost my entire life.

Inside, what was a lunch room not long before had been transformed into a place of joy and fun, with decorations covering almost every wall and hanging from a majority of the vents. The environment was booming with a mixture of stories, laughter, and a selection of music from Pingry's own Buttondowns, Balladeers, Jazz Band, and two groups of brave and talented singers (one of whom was made up of two Middle Schoolers).

Around the room, you could watch as a group of 30 students took off their student hats and took on the role of host for the evening, acting as wait staff and willing to accept any request given to them. Even though I did not get to interact with my fellow hosts too much through the night, I recall the smiles we would give each other. It was like a conversation we would have only with our faces, completely non-verbal.

I took a particular liking to one group of women I interacted with, and it seemed like they took a liking to me, too. This group seemed to have decided that I was their designated dance partner, and while members of the Jazz Band were playing their hearts out, a gaggle of elderly women came up to me to dance the night away. One woman in particular challenged me to a dance battle, which I am sad to say that she succeeded in winning; but I was honored to dance with her in the first place. While I was spending time with these women, I noticed that the conversation constantly went back to talking about myself. These women, and many other guests I interacted with that night, wanted to know about our lives and the lives of others at Pingry. And so I spun tales of my younger years and talked about my sister and my family, and I even taught a few of them some basic, conversational sign language.

As the night was coming to a close, it was time to crown our Prom king and queen. All those who wished to participate received a raffle ticket, and two hosts picked two name cards out of a basket: one for the king and one for the queen. This year we had something peculiar happen, which made all those who were a part of the process laugh. There was a queen who came up and accepted her prize, but when the king's number was called, no one came up. Luckily a kind man accepted the role in order to not leave the queen alone on the dance floor, and they danced together in the final dance of the night.

The end of the evening was bittersweet, to say the least. I was only with these people for a few hours that night, but I felt as though I had known them for a long time. I did not want to see them leave, but I knew that they had to go along with their lives, as did I. Once again, I stood outside, watching all the guests go by me; instead of wishing for them to have a good time that night, I was saying goodbye. I didn't realize how many people I interacted with that night until I saw them all walking by me to go on their buses and then to the rest of their lives. So many thanked me and all those who knew my name thanked me personally, with some of those (like the gaggle of women I danced with) giving me a hug and a kiss to say farewell. But the moment that touched my heart the most was when one woman thanked me in the sign language that I had taught her. This made me smile instantly and, if I am honest, I was close to tears after she left. When I walked back inside and watched a beautiful night come to a close as the ballroom turned back into a lunch room once more, it was like the end of Cinderella, when the spell breaks and everything turns back to "normal."

I would like to thank all those who helped to make this amazing evening possible: Mr. Sean McAnally, Mr. Jay Winston, Dr. Andrew Moore, and especially our fearless leader, Ms. Shelley Hartz.  

And to answer my question from earlier: It's hard to be cold when you're having so much fun!

Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer,