Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away. It’s a time when we look back over the past year and celebrate what we’re grateful for. One thing I’m most grateful for is my family. It’s changed over the years with the grandkids getting married and having kids. Now some of the great grandkids are married too.

We gather at someone’s home and have our annual feast. Turkey (of course), stuffing, cranberry sauce, both canned and homemade (there an on-going debate in my family as to which is the “real” kind), mashed potatoes, an appetizer, rolls, fruit salad, deviled eggs, and several pies. 2016 Thanksgiving

Festivities typically start around noon that day, with people arriving from all over. It’s a long way, but always worth it, as we only get to see the whole family once a year. The time becomes more and more significant as we get older too.

After a large meal, everyone goes for a walk even though it’s getting dark. The cool air helps counter the effects of the Tryptophan in the turkey. At least that’s what they say.

Charades is a family tradition after our evening walk each year. We form two teams (guys vs. girls) and each team comes up with movies, books, songs, and TV shows for someone on the other team to act out without saying anything or making any noises. Everyone has up to three minutes for their team to come up with the right answer. There’s always lots of laughter, teasing, and good-natured competitiveness. In recent years, we’ve added more games such as Fish Bowl and a Factoid Game. Whatever the details, it’s guaranteed to be fun.

So, how about you? What does Thanksgiving mean to you? How do you celebrate the holiday? Share it here.

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Small Acts of Kindness: Reaching Out in Friendship

By Ellen Andersen

Mom and Dad

I’m fortunate to have a close family.  And my mom is the best. She means the world to me and is more than just my mom. She’s a close friend and I treasure our relationship.

She means a lot to her friends as well. She’s been in a bowling league for many years now and has met a lot of people she wouldn’t otherwise know.

Mom describes one of the ladies on her team as amazing; they’ve been bowling together for about 12 years. Her name is Dolores and she has an average of about 128, despite the fact that she’s 87 years old and has macular degeneration, which clouds her vision. After her first throw, her teammates tell her which pins are left so she aims for them. She’s been bowling so long that even though she can’t see the pins well, she often picks up a spare.

Last Spring, she mentioned to Mom that she likes to walk but she can’t see obstacles in the road because of the macular degeneration. She’s afraid she’ll fall so she just walks up and down her driveway. Mom decided that just wasn’t right, so since she had some extra time, Mom asked Dolores if she’d like them to walk together. Dolores took her up on it right away. They’ve been walking every Monday ever since unless one of them has an appointment or the weather doesn’t cooperate.

They enjoy each other’s company and talk about their families, including Dolores’ kids and life with her husband before he passed away. He used to bowl in their league as well, so Mom knew him too. She describes him as a lovely man.

Having a friend to walk with once a week gives Dolores some variety in her days and she’s able to get out and enjoy the fresh air safely, without fear of falling. And the companionship and conversation increases her quality of life as well.

Mom

What may seem insignificant to us may mean a lot to someone else, and increase their joy. What have you experienced that has made a difference for you or someone else? Share it here.

Dinner Out Every Week

I’d finally gotten out of the hospital after four months. I’d come home but was very limited in what I could do.  Walking with a walker and quite slowly at that, it was discouraging, even as I improved each week.  I was cooped up in the house, other than doctors’ appointments and physical and occupational therapy, since I couldn’t drive.

One of my friends recognized my plight and asked if she could take me out for dinner one night. “Sure!”  I said.  I’d get out of the house and spend time with a friend.   Toots MotisherWhat a great opportunity.  But then I had second thoughts.  How would I get around with the walker?  I was very slow with it. How could I get into her truck?  What if I didn’t have enough energy?

I talked to Toots about all of it and she assured me it’d be okay. That we would just go at my pace, and that she wasn’t in a hurry. As for the truck, she reminded me she could help me in. She said she could even lift me if I needed it and she didn’t mind at all. I had to admit that she was certainly strong enough.

So I agreed and we went out. Sure enough, Toots helped me in and out of the truck and we had a good time talking and just spending time together.  Then, to make it even better and more memorable she and I went out every week.  Toots doesn’t live near me, but was dedicated to ministering to me, even though I didn’t know I needed it.

It’s been over a decade now and I still remember how much it meant to me. Even the simple things can make a difference.. What have you done that’s made a difference in someone’s life? Or, perhaps someone’s made a difference in yours.   Share it here.

When a Dog Walk Becomes a Ministry

By Ellen Andersen

I’d started down the street, taking Tommy for a walk last week. Five minutes later, I discovered God had more in mind for me than simply a short stroll. I’d walked into a ministry. When Tommy and I were about halfway down the street, my neighbor stepped out of her house and called to me.

“Ellen.” I turned to my right.Jo in front of Betty's house

“Hi Jo.”

“Are you going to Bi-Lo?”

“No. I’m just taking Tommy for a short walk.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “I was hoping someone was going to Bi-Lo. I need some cream cheese for some pies and a cake I want to make for my grandkids this weekend and it’s too far for me to drive. I can’t drive that far anymore.” (Jo’s in her late eighties and is rather frail.)

I walked about 3 more steps then turned around, deciding it wouldn’t be a big deal to pick up something at the store. I told her I would go for her.

“Oh, great! I just need some cream cheese—four packages. It’s on sale this week. And you know, that milk stuff in the can. I don’t remember what it’s called.

“Evaporated milk?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that. I need two of those. I’m making dessert for when my grandkids come. And I need . . .”

I laughed and said, “You’re going to have to write this stuff down, Jo. I’m not gonna remember it all.”

“Oh sure. I will.” Jo ambled into her house, doing her best to balance with her walker. She found a piece of paper and a pen, and dug out her advertisement with the sales on it. Sure enough, cream cheese was on sale. She put Campbells’ tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup (two each please) along with three or four more items on her list. I had to smile.

Jo took some money out of her purse and handed it to me. “I think this will be enough,” she said. “Do you want more?” I assured her it’d be plenty.

Because she can’t drive more than around the corner, she’s usually cooped up at home.

“Do you want me to come with you? To help you?” she asked. She hoped I’d yes so she could get out of the house, not because she thought I needed help. I declined, telling her I’m not strong enough to help her balance. I could just see the two of us in trouble walking in the parking lot. Puppy dog eyes begged me to take her with me, but safety comes first. I walked Tommy home then drove to the store.

I don’t shop at Bi-Lo so I had no idea where to find things for her. Fortunately, I’m not shy about asking for help. I spotted some people who seemed to know where things were and they pointed me in the right direction. One lady even took me to exactly what I needed a couple aisles down.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived back at Jo’s, groceries in hand. She stood outside, smiling as I pulled up. Jo tried to take a bag from me.

“It’s okay, Jo. I’ve got it.”

“I don’t want it to be too heavy for you” she said.

“Thanks Jo, but it’s not too heavy. Really.”

We walked into her house, put everything on the counter and stuck the cream cheese in the fridge. I handed her a little over six dollars in change. Jo tried to give me a dollar for having gone. “For the gas”, she said. I declined. It was just down the street.

A few days later, Jo spotted me as she headed home from the mailbox. She headed toward me and said, “I made the pie for my grandkids. They really liked it.” She proceeded to tell me about their time together.

It was such a small thing to do, but getting those things for her at the store meant a lot to Jo and she had a great time with her grandkids. Little favors can mean a lot to someone. Even just a mile’s drive to the store.

Cash in the Mail

By Ellen Andersen

As a social worker, I enjoyed working with other medical professionals, taking care of people during an illness in the hospital and afterward, in home health. One of my favorite settings, though, was hospice, where I could had the privilege of helping patients and their families adjust to and cope with a terminal illness. There are multiple aspects to it, from legal arrangements to making medical decisions for a person’s care, to the emotions that surround a person who’s sick and their family. I was the one to help them navigate all of it.

I’d just gotten my job a few months earlier, had adjusted to the commute, and had learned my way around the cities we served.

One day I went into work and my boss, Linda, greeted me, saying “Hi Ellen. I have some bad news. We’re closed now.”

“What do you mean we’re closed?” It didn’t make any sense. Medical services don’t “close”.

“The hospital’s decided to close the hospice. They’re going to contract out hospice services with VistaCare.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It’s just a business decision they’ve made. They’ve been talking about what to do with the hospice side of the business for a while now and that’s what they’ve decided.” Shaking my head, I walked to my car, wondering what to do next.

I looked for work steadily for a few months but nothing panned out. One day, when I picked up the mail I found a letter addressed to eLan anDerson, printed money_envelope $20sloppily as a four-year-old would. Eyebrows raised, I opened it. There was no letter or note inside, just two 20 dollar bills. I looked at the envelope again and there was no return address. The postmark was from Los Angeles, about 25 miles from my house. Obviously, the person who sent it didn’t want me to know who they were since I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles.

I suspected it was someone from the singles class at my church. They all knew I’d lost my job and had been praying for me.  I shared my surprise and delight over the gift the following Sunday and mentioned that it had been anonymous. I said I wished I knew who it was so I could thank them. I looked from one person to another but no one gave themselves away. It’s been over 15 years now and I still don’t know who was so generous.

Whoever it was may not have thought of it as much of a sacrifice on their part, but it meant a lot to me. It’s not so much the amount of money they gave, but the fact that they thought of me and wanted to reach out in some way. Even though they couldn’t provide me with another job, they did what they could to show that they cared. That meant a lot. Even if we can’t solve a problem or fix a situation for someone, we can still give of ourselves.  

What have you witnessed where you’ve seen someone selflessly give of themselves?  Perhaps with their time, or talent. Or maybe you’ve been the one to make a difference for someone else and they let you know.  Share it here.

 

Housewarming Surprise

I’d just bought a new home and while it had a nice floor plan, it needed some TLC in the front. Overgrown bushes hid the house from the street and obscured the view from the kitchen window. mauldin-home-before-taking-out-front-bush Dad and some friends spent quite a bit of time getting rid of some of the bushes. One day around noon, Mom suggested we go over and see how it was coming along. They’d made progress. We went inside and pretty soon a friend of mine from my Bible study drove up.

 

She said Mom had called so she decided to come over to see how things were progressing. After a few more minutes someone else from Bible study showed up.

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Soon more and more people showed up, having planned a surprise housewarming. Some who couldn’t be there even arranged to have gifts delivered on their behalf. I later learned Mom and my friends had planned it all a few months earlier, having made sure I would be there when they came.

 

They’d ordered pizzas for lunch too! I spent the next couple hours talking with good 220friends about my new home and opening their gifts that ranged from toilet paper to hand towels to dishwasher detergent. Flour, sugar, and vanilla (because I love to bake) soup and picnic supplies were among other gifts.

 

It was so thoughtful of them to think of it and plan the surprise for me. It’s wonderful to have friends you trust with personal joys and struggles, who will celebrate exciting news and even surprise you like my friends did that day. It’s times like this that make me realize I’m truly blessed.