"No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart."
DEAR NEIGHBORCARE VOLUNTEERS AND FRIENDS:
This holiday season, two people I help care for are dying. During such times, I think how readily "the shame of living syndrome" can take hold. We still must do laundry, eat, sleep, speak with others-but these activities feel inferior if we let them, almost a blot on our loved one's state of being. Often, little we do feels good enough-would that the trees might bow, birds perform unprecedented symphonies, and we, unfailingly, speak pearls. Compounding our sense of scarcity, thoughts intrude we regard as shameful-for one, a desire for relief from rounds of tending and vigilance and concern. Or we feel remorse for any joyful moments. A little charity for ourselves, please. We are human, after all. Surely, any mercy we graciously yield to ourselves we may more easily bestow, golden, on those we watch over.
"Our gracious Creator cares for and provides for all his creatures. His tender mercies are over all his works; and so far as his love influences our minds, so far we become interested in his workmanship and feel a desire to take hold of every opportunity to lessen the distresses of the afflicted and increase the happiness of the creation. Here we have a prospect of one common interest from which our own is inseparable-that to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives."
- John Woolman, from his essay "A Plea for the Poor"
NEIGHBORCARE NEWS Here's a recent suggestion: that we match up children (of single moms) whose grandparents are not nearby with those in our community whose grandchildren are not nearby. These are the times when our definition of family might well be expanded-and also our definition of "health-related assistance." Does anyone want to be a grandparent-and a help? A YES might mean, for example, "your grandchild's" visit to your home-or your visit to "your grandchild's" home-to give Mom a gift of time.
"If [our] sorrow is teaching us the right lesson, it will lead us to seek out the despairing, to help them to love again by warming their hearts with our love. A simple test as to whether our sorrow is good or noble, or selfish and base, is whether it helps or hinders our usefulness to others. . . .What joy to [the ones who pass on] if we live on undistraught, using the newly acquired lessons, the larger sympathy . . .to be helpful to others. Could we do more for them?"
-As usual: We continue to have no meetings, no forms-just names, dates, places, needs and notes. Always we intend to make sure that what we promise someone will happen does happen-and happen well in whatever fitting way-so that it is not NEIGHBORCARE cracks folks are falling into. Our intention requires various degrees of follow-up, but we don't mind.
-We are asking people to reserve up to three double portions of nutritious soup, lasagna, stews, bread etc. in their freezer for NEIGHBORCARE emergencies. One welcome feature of this service is that these portions do not have to be prepared on demand. Some of what has already been cooked or baked can be set aside for heating up in someone's home. Our aim is that food will be available in every town on the peninsula-and beyond. WHILE YOU'RE THINKING OF IT, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU'D BE WILLING TO TAKE PART . Use our NEIGHBORCARE address, or email me to add your name. This could be an ideal contribution for those who are reluctant or unable to serve outside their home. In essence this service requires only the time it takes for meals to be dropped off or-if driving is a problem-handed over to another volunteer for speedy delivery. It may also feel pleasing to share foodmaking with someone you currently are visiting who would like to give back in some useful way. Already the service has been of great benefit. A few names grace our list but, in this season of giving-in every season-the more the merrier. In advance, thank you for helping out. This is no small thing.
-As ever, we furnish free-of-charge, health-related volunteer service across all income levels. Yet, sometimes, NEIGHBORCARE can't render all the volunteer, free-of-charge help necessary to provide adequate care, especially if no home care agencies are mandated to step in and there is need for daily or weekly longterm service. Experiencing these situations, family members sometimes ask us for the names of dependable people available to do paid services; we believe we are doing a service if we can supply these names.We feel gratified when paid services and NEIGHBORCARE services complement one another, filling in still more cracks in the healthcare system. Sometimes a person who does work for pay is willing to take a shift or two, as a volunteer-or as a friend. More and more the lines blur, and the walls come down. As stated in the NEIGHBORCARE brochure: Our purpose is to serve ill, dying, physically burdened-or heartsick- neighbors in their efforts to live their lives to their fullest capacity, and/or to find resources that support this purpose. If you or anyone you know is available in our area to do freelance, cleaning, home health work, nursing, or the like, we'd love to hear about it. Willingness to do overnights, either on a regular basis or even once in a while, would be especially helpful.
KUDOS for Shirley Lipschutz-Robinson's Wellness Cafe. This is an educational, health-enhancing, nonprofit site dedicated to help promote holistic health for human beings and animals. All embracing. Indescribably informative.
A GIFT YOU CAN ALWAYS GIVE During customary celebrations such as birthdays and holidays, sometimes loved ones are critically indisposed and can't participate. For a while, nearly fifteen years ago, two weeks before my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary I didn't know what to do. My father was so weak from the ravages of lung cancer he could barely sit up or eat or talk, let alone think of celebrating. Yet I couldn't let the day pass without paying tribute to him and to my mother. What I did was ask friends and family to send cards and letters to my parents in care of a friend who offered her mailing address. Before my parents' anniversary, I picked up the cards and letters, packed them into a handsome box, then wrapped the box, extravagantly, with festive paper-plus streamers, glitter and a balloon. With as much flourish as I could muster, I presented the gift to my parents on their day. My mother and I spent a slow, quiet time reading to my father, snuggled as close to him as his pain would allow. An added boon was the comfort the cards and letters provided my mother and me, long after my father died.
FROM THE NOT-A-DOCTOR In chilly weather, remember to keep your kidneys and adrenals warm. Japanese people often use a harimake (cummerbund) for this purpose. (A few years ago, I made one out of jersey knit for my daughter to take on her trip to Tibet.) The warmth conserves vital energies and protects the body from stress, exhaustion and illness. Watch anxiety (even fear) lessen when you take care in this way. No harimake? Bless those hot water bottles!
PONDER THIS! When we meet people we haven't seen for a while, especially those we know who have been ill, we'd best not say in the midst of a doubletake, "Hello! I didn't recognize you!" unless they are looking terrific, and then make that clear, but not so vigorously that they imagine how terrible they must have looked before. Perhaps they were coming alive to their old selves following their troubles and, now, from our innocent comment, they feel set back. (We all have put our foot in our mouth in this and similar ways.)
A REMINDER It is not only those we find endearing who deserve the best from us.
"For you shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all of the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
- (Isaiah 55:12)
FROM THE KITCHEN For a flavorful potato-leek soup, sauté celery, leeks, and onions in a little butter. Add water/vegetable broth, quartered potatoes, caraway, dill, black pepper, garlic granules, chopped parsley. You can puree this soup or let it cook down. Don't forget salt, Braggs, or Tamari.and perhaps a smidgen of salsa.
LIVING QUESTIONS What if when we were feeling overwhelmed, we took even more care to keep our promises or, forgetting to-or unable to-we acted most swiftly to apologize for and rectify any hurt we may have caused? And from Aldous Huxley's checklist: Are we more loving, useful, aware, accepting and content than we were a year ago?
"A sound man's heart is not shut within itself but is open to other people's hearts: I find good people good, and I find bad people good if I am good enough; I trust men of their word, and I trust liars if I am true enough; I feel the heart-beats of others above my own if I am enough of a father, enough of a son."
-from The Way of Life by Lao Tzu
Blessings all around you, this winter and in every season,