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


Barbara Wright WHY I DO THIS: Long ago, traveling, I realized that no matter where you go there always are kindly people, willing to help. I'm just one of them–here.

Dear neighborcare volunteers and friends: This holiday season, perhaps it is not only the presents we have bought or made that are festooned for giftgiving but we, as well, with family and friends ribboning and glittering around us. Or maybe family and friends, for whatever reason, are missing. In any case, who is to say in which of these worlds we feel most isolated, and in which one we feel most at peace and in loving relationship. Each can seem packed with its own perks and perils.

Regardless of our outer or inner circumstances, the world can use our prayers. From our joy: the prayer that those who suffer be introduced to/restored to their truest selves. From our suffering: our compassion for those feeling the same, accompanied by our desire that they, too, be eased; also, our true gladness for those who rejoice.

Self-forgetfulness is key to our bestowing these prayers. In that "all-embracing, equalizing country" lives the radiance of every blessed one of us–we are not the only star there!–as well as the mercy that carries us through.

NEIGHBORCARE NEWS A call for "neighborcare hearts." At one point during these past three months I was away from those who love me most and, for a brief time, experiencing acute pain. At once I thought of someone I know who, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, experiences pain (and of all those I don’t know who experience the same, perhaps with no one to love them but God as they know God). What I wished for my sake (and for all) was for someone simply to welcome me in–wanting to be with me, this wanting born of our commonality. I wanted this as much as I wanted my pain to disappear (which it did and I felt blessed my wish was granted).

neighborcare is on the lookout for those who understand–heartfully, viscerally–the gift of this kind of presence. Please step forth if you are glad (or yearn to be glad) to spend yourselves.

These days, the beloved Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is interrupting/expanding his dharma talks–rising to his feet and stepping forward to the front of the stage where he is presenting–to urge his audiences to act now for good (my words, not his), in ways the world can feel. Sometimes mustering the energy it takes to resist this call tests our tender, overwhelmed selves more than simply serving would test us. Though it is for each dear one of us, circumstance by circumstance, at our own pace, to decide how and if we will respond, accounts like the one that follows can inspire us to stretch ourselves. If not now, when?

for the love of strangers There are no homeless in Geel, Belgium. A program of compassionate community care features mental health houses open from early morning to midnight and healing teams of psychiatrists, general practitioners, nurses, social workers and psychologists. Each team serves some 150 chronically mentally ill individuals living with more than 700 families in every neighborhood of the city. From an article capturing the essence of the program: "The tradition of community care that is so richly developed in Geel emerged over a seven hundred year history. Over the years stigma has been worn away. Understanding and patience have taken its place. . . Healing is the calling of the whole community. In Geel, it is a privilege to be a host family, a privilege to provide a home for someone who is mentally ill." Host families receive a small stipend but would host without it The government supports the program. If the patients become unstable they are taken back into the hospital until stabilized. There is no place in Geel where they are not welcome. Many have their medication reduced as a result of the ease they feel from being cared for. In one segment of the documentary I watched, featuring Geel, a little girl is patiently teaching two retarded old men.

Craig Rennebohm describes the Mental Health Chaplaincy of Seattle which has been inspired by Geel’s program: "At the heart of the vision of compassionate community is refuge and sanctuary. Each neighborhood is called to have a place where one can rest and find aid 24 hours a day. An inn or two where the runaway child, the distraught and abused mother, the confused and suffering soul may be encouraged to come and begin healing. Such a refuge should have ready access to acute care, and be able to refer people to neighborhood emergency shelter and other survival resources. Out in the community, and at the door, should be folk who have the calling and skill to be present and listen, to build trust, discern needs, and bear the pain and struggle with another." Will you be refuge in your town?Perhaps you already are!

A story is told of an Eastern village which, through the centuries, was known for its exquisite pottery. Especially striking were its urns; high as tables, wide as chairs, they were admired around the globe for their strong form and delicate beauty. Legend has it that when each urn was apparently finished, there was one final step. The artist broke it – and then put it back together with gold filigree. An ordinary urn was then transformed into a priceless work of art. What seemed finished wasn't, until it was broken. So it is with people! Broken by hardships, disappointments and tragedy, they can become disappointed and bitter. But when mended by a hand of infinite patience and love, the finished product will be a work of exquisite beauty and effectiveness; a life which could only reach its wholeness after it was broken."

highly recommended the movie Pay It Forward, which celebrates the practice of passing on the good rather than paying it back and supposes what could happen if this practice became the norm in a world needing so much from us.

from the not-a-doctor Our neighborcare contact in the Rockland area was suffering from chronic bronchitis. She felt she might be veering toward deeper infection and pneumonia. To help herself, she chose two pairs of socks–one pair cotton ,one pair wool (this is essential). First, she soaked the cotton socks in water, next wrung excess water from them and put them on. Over the cotton socks, she put the wool ones. This she did before going to bed and covering up well. In the morning she felt chipper enough to stack one and a half cords of wood.

from the kitchen Hail to the acid neutralizing, inflammation reducing, potassium enriching, compassion inducing, burn relieving (external), blood pressure reducing, potato, considered one of the most completely nourishing foods if eaten with its skin, and certainly a comfort food during stressful times. note: Those following a macrobiotic diet would disagree, as would those who say potatoes can heighten the symptoms of arthritis, etc., it’s touted by others to relieve. But these are times when many things can be true at once. Do your own research. Check out your body’s reaction then decide for yourself. Whatever you decide, remember, green potatoes/potato sprouts are toxic. The "eyes," too, are toxic; dig them out. And the skins of chemically treated potatoes might not offer the nourishment you’re looking for!

If potatoes are on your buy/grow list, for a treat deliver twice-baked ones to neighborcare friends you’re caring for. (Thanks to a former neighborcare board member for this suggestion.) Many who aren’t up to cooking can pluck these from the freezer and easily heat them up. Chopped cooked veggies, spices, cooked sausage, tuna, milk/soymilk can be added in (not all of these together, necessarily!) according to your neighborcare friend’s ability to digest and chew. Add cheese/soy cheese for melting on top of the potato as well as toasted, seasoned wheat germ sprinkled on for crunch.

living questions "I beg you to have patience with everything resolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then someday, far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer."–Rainer Maria Rilke

caregiving tip When we care for someone who’s bedridden and in pain, we often ask with all good heart, "Are you comfortable? May I get anything for you?" This may do for the forthright patient who is not reluctant to respond openly. But to the person hesitant to impose on us, or to the one who clings to remnants of independence, we might say "You’re not looking too comfortable. I’d like to fix your pillow. May I do that?" or, at least, "What can I do to make you more comfortable?"

Sometimes the greatest service we can provide is to give the person in bed the gift of ourselves. Offering this, we might say. "I’d be glad to sit with you for a while. Would you like that?" instead of "Would you like me to sit with you for a while?" which doesn’t let him or her know what we would like to do.

growing neighborcare While you’re thinking of it, will you mention neighborcare to (at least)

one person you know who might be interested in receiving the newsletter? Then, if that person is willing, will you email me his or her name, mailing address and phone number? If everyone took a moment to do that, we’d have over 1400 people on the neighborcare mailing list. Where in the world the person lives doesn’t matter. What matters is that "the circle widens." In advance, thank you for this "donation." Your slightest effort here counts and could help work wonders.


took place in my home on Wednesday, Dec 18th. Several of us—again some new faces—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.


"The universe in all its strangeness and wild variety simply offers its existence to us. As we love it, we find it beautiful. As we find it beautiful, we redeem and are redeemed, for we discover we are not alone but in loving communion with God and all that God has made."

- from Letters from the Holy Ground by Loretta Ross-Gotta

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

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maggie davis 207.266.7673
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614

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