Today I left my name and phone number with a surly lady at a desk at one of the local old folk’s homes. I’m sure it’s not politically correct to call it that anymore but it’s what my grandma calls it so… It’s like the actual pot calling the kettle black. Why did I leave my number there? You ask… well because last year there were too many people who volunteered at the local food pantry (that serves Thanksgiving dinner to the needy every year) and I stood around half the time with 20 other people fiddling with my thumbs. Not by choice but because there were not enough jobs for the 50 some people who showed up to help.
I am not saying I should not have tried to help or that I wouldn’t do it again but it made me decide to think outside the box this year. I am fully dedicated to teaching my kids about the importance of being a good person and showing up when someone needs you. Here is my motivation for my change up.
Last spring, about a month before my wedding, my ninety-seven year old great-grandma passed away. A little background, my grandma Mann was a stubborn old woman who at 95 years old had to be put in an assisted living facility after breaking her back while moving her couch. She was slipping into Alzheimer’s and was having incontinence without realizing it. She couldn’t take care of herself anymore and the rest of the family didn’t have homes safe enough for her to live in. She hated living there. My grandma, aunt, and my little cousin would visit her all the time but it didn’t matter. She wanted her independence and her old place back. It was hard seeing her, not only because she didn’t remember who I was most of the time, that she was going deaf, or because the whole place felt cold and sterile. I hated seeing her die on the inside. Those places are hard. They are hard on the people who have to live there, they are hard on the staff who have to take care of them, and it’s extremely hard on the family who have to witness. I totally understand why most people don’t make visiting Grandma a regular item on the agenda but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
I was visiting her every chance I got when my kids and I were in town. I came down during the week she broke her hip and sat with her every day until she eventually passed away. It is by far one of the hardest things I have ever done but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
I saw first hand the depression, loneliness, and feeling of just being lost that the residents feel on a daily basis. I decided today that this will be how we give back to our community. On Thanksgiving, my kids and I will go to the facility and read children’s books with the residents in the activity room. It may only be an hour or two before I have to return to help with dinner but I know in my heart that it will brighten the day of those who may not have family to be with on Thanksgiving.
Today I made eye contact with a man slumped down in his wheelchair and gave him a simple “Hello”, with a smile, and his whole demeanor changed. It is amazing what basic human contact can offer to an elderly person.
If you find yourself thinking that you want to get involved and active in your community but you aren’t really sure where to start I have made a list of ideas for you. Some of them may seem strange but I promise you that good karma will make it’s way back to you and your heart will feel full.
– Contact your local assisted living facility to see if you can bring your family in to visit residents who don’t get many visitors. They may even allow you to bring a calm family pet to make the rounds.
– Many facilities have small libraries where residents can borrow books. Ask if they have been getting requests for anything and buy it from a local bookstore or used on Amazon for them.
– Support the homeless. Start a Shoe or sock drive. Collect new or gently used socks and shoes and ask the local police department to distribute them to local shelters or known homeless people. They will have a better idea where the people are who need them.
– Collect toiletries from friends and family who have things they don’t use or need, ask them to donate one thing, whether it be band-aids, toothpaste, shampoo, cologne, whatever, and create little care bags to distribute to local homeless and battered women’s shelters.
– Bring cat and dog toys to the local animal shelter.
– Pack up the food that is collecting dust in your pantry and donate it to the local food shelter (granted that it isn’t like turned to dust on the inside)
– Ask your kids to collect toys that they don’t play with or that they want to donate to kids in need and bring it to the local women’s shelter or police station. (most shelters are under law enforcement protection and they will be the best way to network with them) You would be surprised how many kids live in shelters with their parents. They often time don’t get to bring toys from home or never got to have any to begin with. You could make their holiday special!
– Make cookie or cupcake trays and bring them to the police, fire station or anywhere that first responders have to spend lots of time. They don’t get to take the holidays off. Crime and accidents don’t stop just because of a holiday.
– If you know of an elderly person, or a single mom living nearby, shovel their drive or hire the local kids to shovel it for you. I promise it will make their whole day!
– Reconnect with an old friend, or seek out that friend who is super busy and offer to watch their kid/s while they go grocery shopping or go out on a date with their significant other. Who knows? Maybe they haven’t been out without the kids in years! I’m sure it will lighten their load and you may even get the favor returned.
There are so many little ways to make a huge impact on someone else’s life.
You have the power to be a hero, but you first have to realize what you are capable of.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” -Gandhi.