Some of you know I’ve been volunteering weekly at a senior center for the past few months. It began as a way to “show up” and be of service in my community.
I have always loved the elderly. My first job was at a retirement center where I had the joy of serving seniors their dinner meal. They delighted in me recalling their favorite beverages, or desserts … buttermilk, V-8, rainbow sorbet, to name a few.
Their joy in the simple things had an impact on my life.
So, when I set out to volunteer some of my time, I simply took the first step to find a senior center near me that felt good. I was fortunate to find one close to home. The online employee reviews were glowing: “I love working here; I love our residents; we’re all a family.” Well, that did it! This was my place.
Long story short, I volunteer by calling out Bingo numbers, playing varying themes of the game, and then I read short stories for an hour. Many cannot read any longer due to changes in their vision, so being read to is a big treat.
Interestingly, when I set out to volunteer, I had no idea I’d wind up in a Memory Care facility. This particular facility just shifted to serve people with early onset, and full-blown dementia and Alzheimer’s in January 2017. Their website did not indicate this, at least not that I noticed. So, as I began working with these amazing people, funny things began to happen.
They would tell me stories about their lives, because I’d asked. Many are in their 80’s, 90’s and even one dear lady is 102! Boy, the stories they can tell! Later I discovered that some of their stories were made up. They were fabricating parts of their past – Ha! I would’ve never guessed! They seemed so serious and “real!”
My initial, human response was “she lied about that?!” Then, my next thought was “isn’t that just adorable?!”
You see, they don’t care…
They are in a state of being in between worlds; the one they lived in, and the state they’re in now. Some are still aware enough to know they’re struggling with their minds, others haven’t a clue … and, there seems to be some "magic" there.
Of course, not for those family members who are watching their loved ones “slip away,” but for me --- the outsider, I see magic. I see a joyous detachment from any striving. I see a relaxed state of acceptance. They don’t care so much what others think. They are just (mostly) happy.
I have learned a lot from these folks. I have learned that life is a gift. I have learned it all passes far too fast. I'm reminded of this each week. I have learned humility from watching them gracefully, and in a state of acceptance, navigate things that were once so easy for them, and are no longer.
So, what if - like them - we didn’t care so much?
Of course, it’s good to care, but sometimes we care too much …
We’re too attached to our stories, our “truth, or reality,” instead of simply just being in a state of wonder, in a state of humility, or gratitude for the simple things like someone remembering we love buttermilk with our dinner … accepting 'what is' without struggle, and therefore living in that state of grace. I don't know about you, but I want more of that please!
I am reminded it’s all about how we hold things in our mind … our perspective. Wisdom can come from anywhere, even from those who society would label “difficult, challenged, or mentally slipping.” They remind me weekly to let go a bit, relax, and allow things to be as they are.
Thank you Eleanor, Jean, Babe, Lee, Kenneth, Doris, Laverne, and sweet, 102-year old Lillian, and the rest of you. You are forever etched in my heart and mind as some of my dearest and most brilliant teachers, as you teach me to remember what’s important here and now. I honor you!
If you’re feeling particularly challenged to see the beauty, grace and gifts in a difficult situation you’re facing, one of my favorite subjects to coach around is finding “miracles and magic in the mess.” Contact me and let’s have a conversation that matters … one that allows you to see how life can offer you lemonade from lemons, even when we at-first we cannot fathom such an outcome.
Mindy J Kaleta
9/27/2017 11:50:52 am
You made me cry.
9/27/2017 01:11:49 pm
Thank you Mindy! I know - you know --- just how much this time means for me personally. <3 U!
9/27/2017 12:19:18 pm
This story made me a little glassy eyed. (No suprise here)
9/27/2017 01:12:44 pm
Yes, I know sweetheart - you've always honored, and listened to the elderly. It makes you so much of the man that you are! <3 U!
9/27/2017 12:22:55 pm
There is magic, isn't there Dana? I have seen it too...
9/27/2017 01:13:33 pm
Karen, I'm glad you can see it, too!!! Takes an open hearted soul to see what others do not... <3
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I help others see Magic and Miracles in the Mess of this journey we all life.