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


Recently, I attended a holiday/solstice potluck gathering in the home of friends I love as family. In this plain and charming, comfy home, the ordinary is accomplished in unselfconscious, yet celebratory ways. On this night, wee animals and children swirled around the legs of the adults or were passed from embrace to embrace. There was cider, coffee, and tea for beverages, plus good food. Candles had been lit all round in every room. A young child, newly steady on his feet, was guided, beaming, to light a candle of his own. Many of us at this gathering had spent time together each winter season for over ten years. Others were newcomers. But no one looking on could have distinguished who was who by how they were welcomed in or tended to. Joy lives in this home, mostly unbroken, alongside presence and acceptance and respect and laughter. Every plant and pet and human being there is counted as good fortune, and likely feels good fortune. GLORIOUS? YES. And it is also true that a few weeks before this evening I enjoyed a similar experience at a local Subaru dealership, where I knew no one! There, too, I was welcomed in, shown kindness and smiles-my dog, Ozzie, stroked again and again by PERFECT STRANGERS. Thank you notes sent by satisfied customers graced the wall, as did awards for service, received year after year. This, too, was a joy place, as any place can be where people reach out in ARMS AROUND ways.

Quaker Thomas Kelly speaks of those who are AUTHENTICS, those for whom "there is a tendering of the soul, toward everything in creation, from the sparrow's fall to the slave under the lash. The hard-lined face of a money-bitten financier is as deeply touching to the tendered soul as are the burned-out eyes of miners' children, remote and unseen victims of his so-called success. There is a sense in which, in this terrible tenderness, we become one with God and bear in our quivering souls the sins and burdens, the benightedness and the tragedy of the creatures of the whole world, and suffer in their suffering, and die in their death."
from Testament of Devotion (Italics are Kelly's.)

WHY I DO THIS: Because I can. Because I am moved by whoever said: "We should all be the kind of person we wish everybody was." Because I "owe it" to people who have done a kindness for me and would take no reward, saying: "Do it for someone else sometime."

In recent newsletters, I wrote about Our Neighborcare Friend, the 103-year-old woman whom some of us have been caring for. We had wanted ONF to be able to stay in her private room in the assisted living section of a local nursing home so that she might end her days with dignity and in some peace. As life would have it, funds ran out for her private room and, on that same day, ONF required brief hospitalization then was moved into a room in the nursing wing so she might receive more extensive hands-on care. For the longest time, ONF had not known about the donations. (MANY THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO CONTRIBUTED) Now, she did not know that money had run out (or that a gracious and generous donor had offered to give more)—so none of this was the cause of what is now off and on distress-triggered by the hospitalization? ONF's necessary move from her private room? Her dying process? The distress shows up as confusion, grouchiness and sadness alternating with coherence, peace and laughter (twice, a little singing). We who have watched over ONF these few years no longer know what to expect when we walk into her room. Where once we were welcomed, consistently, as friends and caregivers, now on occasion we are seen as "the enemy," and ordered in no uncertain terms to leave. Surely, ONF's distress is compounded by her inability to see much-or hear much without her hearing aid, which is not always in her ear, fully powered, when we visit. It is compounded by her sense of her lack of independence partnered with her understanding of her need for help, plus who knows what pain or anger built up during her formidable lifetime. ONF's losses, to her, must seem boundless. There is grief words can't touch for realities endured that were not deserved. I invite you to offer prayers for this old, old woman, winding down. These prayers could ease her- and sail her away, which is her current longing. Meanwhile, we, ONF's "found family," are experiencing what many caregivers face when they no longer are recognized, or connected with as once they may have been. The difference is that we can walk away for a while. We can try to reconnect another time. Millions of caregivers are not so fortunate. They go round and round every day, with no way out. In the midst of the swirl of their feelings, they perform tasks few would choose. HERE , PLEASE FORGIVE ME, I MAKE A LEAP. What good we do when we give respite to caregivers who need it so, and want it. Hats off to these UNSEEN HEROES. For them, respite is not merely a nice idea. It is a saving-and necessary- grace.

The more there is to draw any human being, whether man or woman, out of self, out of a perpetual regard for his or her own comfort or convenience-the more he or she is in the central sun of other systems, giving out light and warmth and life to other planets—the nobler and the happier will that human being be." - Julia C.R. Dorr The Household VOL.V, 1872

FROM THE NOT-A-DOCTOR I was opening a can and cut my thumb, deeply, under the nail. Plenty of bleeding. At once I put a dropperful of echinacea tincture into a tiny cup along with a dropperful of yarrow tincture. In went my thumb. The bleeding stopped. A few minutes later, when the bleeding started again, ever so slightly, in went my thumb again. I did not mind that the solution by now was the color of brick. Again, the bleeding stopped. (Shepherd's purse tincture would have worked-or, in a pinch, cobwebs!) To help ward off infection, I took echinacea tincture several times that day. The cut healed. No stitches necessary. Only minor discomfort.

A REMINDER As we approach what some call the dark-and others, the heart-of winter, the sun has made its turn. We are moving toward greater light. In these strong times for the world, when we're feeling so much, may we embrace the sun's turning as our own and hold that image-for as long as it takes to bring to form. Nothing takes form till we conceive of it. I searched for a mind picture that would allow me to stop seesawing between sadness and hope. Here's what came to mind to become the image I can hold: With others, I am crossing what seems to most to be a wild river. We are battered with waves and spattered with mud. High above our heads, we hold our vision for our world, shining and dry.

"Knowing that all things contrary to God's laws are transient, let us avoid despair and radiate hope for a warless world. Peace is possible, for thoughts have tremendous power. . . . A few really dedicated people can offset the ill effects of masses of out-of-harmony people, so we who work for peace must not falter. We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can, we must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible. What we dwell upon we help bring into manifestation. One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving some of their time make history."
  -Peace Pilgrim

FROM THE KITCHEN a simple-to-make, naturally sweet and nourishing relish, colorful and pleasing to the eye (I may have mentioned this recipe before): In a food processor, mix chopped raw organic cranberries, the insides of your favorite orange (valencia is delicious), and plump raisins (organic is best). Add, chopped walnuts, if that sounds good to you.

TIP The combination, lemon juice and salt, does remove ink stains. My couch knows the truth of it. Sometimes, more than one application is required-a little brushing in, a little blotting, a little patience. Use juice from the lemon itself.

A WISH FOR THE NEW YEAR These are times when more than ever we long to shelter our loved ones and keep them safe from harm of every kind, whether they are within arms' reach, or miles-maybe continents-away. At the same time that we are rallying the wagons round, near and far, others near and far have no such resource. And so, the wish: May we give to "strangers" what we desire for our own kin.
In the dark of the moon/In the flying snow, in the dead of winter/War spreading, families dying, the world in danger/ I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover. -Wendell Berry

WINTER WILES 1) A neighbor of mine couldn't get up a slick driveway to work, last winter season. She discovered that putting hay/straw under her spinning tires created enough friction to allow her on her way (even though her tires had poor tread). Now she (as do I) keeps a bale in her car-just in case. 2) PRIMITIVE ADVICE I didn't have any fancier tool than a hammer to confront the ice that had accumulated on the stairs of our deck. Using one hand to shield my eyes from flying ice chips, with the other I went at the ice with the pronged portion of the hammer head. As I got closer to the step itself, I used the blunt portion of the hammer to avoid chipping off portions of wood; the ice obliged and shattered.

A SIMPLE KINDNESS When you're in a hospital/nursing home/living center visiting a family member, consider the person in the next bed who may have no one, and give that person the gift of you.

"Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the tides and gravity, . . . we shall harness . . . the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire."   -Teilhard de Chardin

LIVING QUESTIONS Never suffer sleep to close thy eyelids after thy going to bed, till thou has thrice reviewed all thy actions of the day: Wherein have I done amiss? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done? from The Golden Verses of Pythagoras
(NOTE: Remember to grace these inquiries with mercy. Guilt can be paralyzing.)

FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK These are cold, damp months. Our PETS deserve a little warmth. If you feed yours canned food along with their dry, do consider not refrigerating the leftovers. In our home, each can of dog and cat food is empty within 24 hours. When the can has been standing open (though covered) for awhile, I eye and sniff it before serving. Kept far from stoves and such, it passes inspection every time. Once in a while, I add warm vegetable broth from soups I'm making, to dry pet food, this before adding in much spice. And when Ozzie comes in soaked from a winter storm, I give him a rubdown with a warm, dry towel. It's true—his coat is thick, but at the very least, he seems to lap up the attention. PLANTS deserve winter care, too. Being moved to a suitable winter spot, free from blasts of frigid air must feel fine, also being watered with tepid—not cold—water. If your children or grandchildren enjoy gardens in spring and summer, in winter they might be happy to help you gently wipe the dust from the leaves of your jade plant or begonia.

NEIGHBORCARE SPECIAL DELIVERY Each time we meet to address newsletters, we stand quietly in circle for a few moments. Only then do we begin passing on healing thoughts to those in our lives and hearts we sense might welcome them. Each time, so that we do not impose in any way, we ask, as a general intention, that all receive what is, for them, their greatest good. When we're done we grin at each other, glowing. I propose we do this routinely, scattered to the winds as we are-that we take five minutes at 5PM each day, wherever we may be, collect ourselves, then make our SPECIAL DELIVERIES. Do put yourself on this list-as a giver, a receiver or both. In these ways we carry and care for each other, no matter how rapidly we are on the go. Will you take a moment to let me know if you're taking time for this practice? It helps to know who's out there with us.


took place in my home on Friday, December 28th. Again several of us—a new face, or two, this time—shared 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.


Blessings all around you-this winter and in every season,
maggie davis, for NEIGHBORCARE

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maggie davis
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614-0370

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