NEIGHBORCARE NEWS #23 MARCH '03

"No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart."

thank you, anne williams, for your exuberance, talent, and abundant eagerness to serve.

Barbara Wright WHY I DO THIS: Because the world is my neighborhood and all its people are my neighbors. Through NEIGHBORCARE this becomes a reality.

Dear neighborcare volunteers and friends: These are mythic times. We walk the balance line between forestalling cataclysm and creating, together—releasing together, rediscovering together—a world of such splendor we can hardly imagine it.

In the movie Normal, actress Jessica Lange discovers that her husband longs to be a woman and will be taking action to become one. Lange suffers. However, when a priest suggests she would be forgiven by the church if she chose to leave her marriage, she glares at him, weeping, and blazes passionately in defense of her beloved. "But he is my heart," she says. "He is my heart." So must we cleave, must we not, to this world as our heaven place—to one another as beloveds—despite wrenching threats and devastation, no matter our individual shocks or circumstances. So doing, we fulfill our destiny as human beings of the highest consciousness and compassion.

I refuse to dwell on the roster of what we have suffered and lost or are at risk of suffering and losing. The list grows to such proportions we are in danger of drowning in the sea of its particulars. Better to be mute, on that score, and instead use our voices to sing out as one voice, loving God as we know God–living God as we know God.

Taking steps in our communities, however broad, however simple, and in our hearts and minds–to make peace, to ease agony of whatever kind–we bolster this commitment in our own lives and inspire others to do the same. We must, at the same time, conceive a new story for our neighborhood the world and act without fail to manifest that story. Until we conceive it–and act as if we conceive it, it cannot be. Oh, the good that comes from our imagining the best in us, and for all of us, everywhere. And such good believing we are helping birth miracles. we are the heroes the world needs, and the world needs us now.

A friend wrote: "When so-called 'bad news' gets very, very bad, it means the brightest realizations of possibility move to rising, like the brilliant sun before a darkened dawn." Imagine the moment, as one of our wise daughters envisions it, when all fear and anguish will be history.

NEIGHBORCARE NEWS A few months ago, I was asked to interview an elderly gentleman in a local assisted living center. This gentleman (a former Harvard graduate and/or professor, I believe) was grateful for a man in a nearby community who tended to him, and he wanted this man celebrated in print for all to read about. One newspaper had respectfully declined, suggesting this was not enough of a human interest story to warrant a feature article. Someone thought that since I was a writer, I might help—at the very least, by offering tribute in the neighborcare newsletter.

My conversation with this genteel and well-spoken man was rich, for both of us, I think. I assured my new friend I would mention the caregiver he treasured in a newsletter. As he requested, I left copies of various neighborcare newsletters for him to read. Two or three days later, on an impulse, I called the caregiver I would be honoring. I wanted to share my enthusiasm and ask him. So doing, I learned our mutual friend (whom I had intended to keep visiting) had died peacefully in his sleep the night following our time together.

In retrospect, I am grateful I did not put off my visit. And I am grateful for two serendipitous conversations that have made my own life richer. Hats off to you, Chesley Dunlap (formerly of Parker Ridge) and, as promised, to your caregiver, Ivar Olson of Brooklin.

reading faces As part of her homeschooling program, my granddaughter and I have included reading faces, i.e. looking deeply at faces that impress us, be they pictures in magazines or those worn by people in our company. This, as a spark for writing essays and short stories. Also as a practice of "listening" well, for all the good that can bring. (Certainly, we can "listen" with more than our ears.)

From a magazine, I had clipped a photograph that struck me. After some reflection, my granddaughter wrote fine words to accompany the photograph. I was so taken by it, I contemplated it again and again. Even now, months later, I can picture the scene in great detail.

The background features bombed out buildings and the absence of plant life. The middle-aged woman in the foreground looks to be of medium build. Her face is free of any blemish. She wears a scarf and simple, layered clothing. Her expression, gazing down and away, is of one who has suffered so much there is nothing left to lose. It is disturbingly, yet inspirationally, serene.

The woman holds a sleeping kitten which she has scrupulously wrapped in a gray and white scarf. The kitten is carried like a baby, one paw resting on the woman’s chest, her left arm cradling its neck and head, her right hand supporting its scarf-wrapped body. The scene suggests the woman has few choices. Of course, one has been to care for the kitten she embraces, a creature who could look no more content if he lay cushioned on a throne.
Looking at the photograph, I sensed the kitten would be cherished till the woman’s last breath.And I wondered: How many, today, far from family, lost from friends or their own truest selves, would not give all they have to be sheltered—despite imminent danger and blot and desolation– so undutifully and magnificently in that woman’s compassionate arms?

"It seems to me that the thing for which you spend your life to build, if you would be whole, is not a bank account, or an unimpeachable social position, or success in any one of a thousand lines of endeavor; it seems to me the only thing worth having is a certainty of yourself, a complete confidence in how you will act under any circumstances, a knowledge of yourself. People who have this knowledge are people who have kept their edges intact, people with what I can only call core; by which I guess I mean th indestructible skeleton of character, shown through manner and mannerism, as good bones show through flesh. It is the thing you know you can count on in yourself and in others, and it’s not easily acquired." from Happy the Land by Louise Dickinson Rich

living questions Does what I think, say and do harm Life or benefit It? What effect will what I think, say and do have on unborn generations? Can something benefit me, truly, or harm me without also having its effect on the world? How can I train myself to see these deep connections? What good can tracing them bring? Who am I, really, if I don’t take the time?

And once again: "Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." –Rumi

highly recommended a "Down Under" movie, The Sum of Us, starring Russell Crowe. The movie, made in the early 1990’s is unique, real, tender but unsentimental. One of its final scenes should be seen by every caregiver—by everyone.

from the kitchen a quick no-fat, lentil vegetable soup. tastes good right away. start it an hour and half before you plan to sit down and enjoy it. no sautéing necessary. Ingredients: Good water. Plenty of slivered fresh ginger root and garlic, and chopped yellow onions. Rinsed lentils. Potatoes, carrots and parsnips (I add these whole and pull them out when they’re soft enough to cut easily in any shape I choose. Broccoli, celery and cubed butternut squash, optional.) Bragg’s amino acids (instead of soy sauce or tamari or salt.)

When the soup is nearly done, add salsa, turmeric, garam masala, curry, and a bit of black pepper, to taste. Sprinkle in astragalus powder and a touch of burdock power for the immune system and liver—these thicken the soup deliciously. At the end, add in chopped kale. Crumbled sheep’s milk feta is a plus, added before serving. An economical and warming meal for cold weather days.

Make enough and you can eat the soup all week or share it with those you care for, and about, in nursing homes (don’t make it spicy then) or in your neighborhood. When the broth dwindles, the soup becomes sauce for rice, rice pasta, or stuffed potatoes, or filling for hash. (We just finished a round of it at home. Am making it again.) Serve with sourdough bread slathered with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. (I scoop out some of the softer sections of bread, for manageability’s sake.) Sprinkle on garlic granules and dill. Bake till crusty on the outside, still-a-bit-chewy on the inside.

from the not-a-doctor Caution: Do not wear heavy-duty cramp-ons/ice grippers in a store which has no "give" to its floor. Doing so you risk crashing to that floor and ripping ligaments in your knee—I am living proof. Doses of homeopathic arnica, taken externally and internally, comfrey root tea, ice, bromelain (found naturally in pineapple and used, in tablet form, for sports injuries), ice (in the form of an ice cuff and/or snow in a ziploc bag), basic restorative exercises (one of which was flexing my toes), having my knee adjusted by an illustrious local chiropractor, two weeks on a walker—plus prayers and grace—brought me in a few weeks time to a 95% healed knee. How very grateful I am! (note: Immediately following my accident, two store personnel rushed over, mostly concerned—at least as I read the expressions on their faces—with legal matters, about which I immediately reassured them. A third person rushed over as well. She wrapped her arm around me, held my hand, was present for me, completely—this angel—and saved the day.)

 

caregiving tips Tell folks how wonderful they look, no matter how old they are. Find something true to say that will lift. Just because a person is old doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t want to be seen. If a new haircut is truly complimentary, notice—out loud. If a flattering color is worn, say the color is flattering. Why hold back? (Not just "What a great color!" but "What a great color on you!")

You can rescue someone magnificently, but if you don’t follow up, at least with a phone call, the person might think you felt trapped into giving, and overburdened. Following up, unbidden, often does as much good for a person you cared for as did your initial service.

growing neighborcare: the good that connections can bring

A young woman in Boulder, Colorado has been receiving neighborcare newsletters for some time—we have been emailing back and forth occasionally. As part of her masters in gerontology program with Naropa in Boulder, my neighborcare friend created Common Hearth: Inviting Neighborhoods to Voluntarily Serve our Elders. On her lovely "invitation" to serve are the words "No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart – Neighborcare of Maine." Lovely!

Someone from the Blue Hill peninsula mentioned neighborcare to a woman living in Vermont. This woman and some friends (already reaching out in their communities) began receiving the newsletter. I met with them nearly two years ago when I was visiting family near Montpelier. Recently, I received an update on their work. Not only do they continue to do neighborcare-like work locally. They are the recipients of a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help them "spread the word" about such community effort and thus induce system change. In support of neighborcare, my contact in Vermont sent along names of people who would like to receive the neighborcare newsletter, plus an offer to donate money toward postage. From Cincinnati, too, requests for newsletters to pass along to others.

So, once again, if you can think of even one person, young or older, who might like to receive the newsletter, no matter how far away that person lives, thank you–while you’re thinking of it–for emailing me names and addresses. In this way, you make neighborcare so much more than just a nice idea.

 

ANOTHER NEIGHBORCARE "MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK" POTLUCK
took place in my home on Monday, March 3rd. Several of usăagain some new facesăshared fine food and talk and addressed NEIGHBORCARE newsletters.

Not necessarily the same people will be gathering each time. Don't think for a minute you have to be a signed-up volunteer to be part of our group.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU'D LIKE TO JOIN IN, IN JUNE.
maggiesdavis@gmail.com    207.266.7673

"[W]hen we say Yes or No [to calls to service], on the basis of inner . . . whispered promptings of encouragement from the "Center of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except oneăthe will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance."

ăThomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion



Blessings all around you—this spring and in every season,
maggie davis, for NEIGHBORCARE


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maggie davis 207.266.7673
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614
e-mail: maggiesdavis@gmail.com



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