Helping Out Friends and Neighbors

grandmothers 6 cake

 

My father, my grandmother and even my great aunt did a lot of volunteer work. I remember my grandmother telling me about rolling bandages during World War II. My great aunt was a Girl Scout leader. My father volunteered his services to the radio for the blind as well as serving as treasurer to some of the organizations to which he belonged. My mother taught small children in her studio when she lived in the Cayman Islands. Volunteering comes naturally when you grow up with it. Many of us do what we can to be of help.

Some years ago a friend of mine and her mother began making pillowslip dresses for young ladies in third world countries. Made from two lengths of material sewn together and tied at the shoulders, these simple inexpensively produced dresses, have supplied a great many girls and young women with modest colorful clothing. Since then the mother and daughter have had many other people join them in their efforts. It brings all who participate a sense of joy as well as the sense of satisfaction that comes from being of help to others.

There are countless ways to share effort. Most churches, senior organizations and even listserves offer opportunities. Giving rides, doing errands, bringing meals, or just being a friendly person to the aged and housebound is one simple, easily found one. Most soup kitchens welcome your help as often as you can manage. Many organizations look for volunteers to assist staff. Helping out a young mother in your neighborhood with child minding while she goes grocery shopping can be a boon. Even the small act of holding the door for the person coming along behind you can bring a smile to that person.

“It is in giving we receive,” said St. Francis of Assisi in his famous prayer for peace. From the time most of are small we are taught to share, to think of others, perhaps to put them first, and to avoid taking the biggest piece of cake or the last cookie. Because it comes when we are very young, this guidance often becomes part of us. We may thrive on the opportunity to do so. However, if I rely solely on the good feeling I get from helping others and neglect to take care of my own needs, I am apt to feel resentment or even neglect when I do not receive what feels like sufficient gratitude for my help

It is vital not to make sacrifices that I cannot afford, however, I need not expect thanks, nor feel neglected when I remember to acknowledge my own efforts to myself.  I need not depend on anyone else’s gratefulness, because I can feel inner gratitude to have been able to help. The act of giving brings with it a natural source of uplift to the heart. This fountain of joy flows freely when we look into ourselves for the acknowledgement we deserve for our efforts. It is lovely to be thanked, and I try to remember to do it often. It is also good when we feel that as an echo of our own inner sense of gratitude.

 

Saying Goodbye to our Friend

Laura Dodge's Dancing DollsAs we were moving into our Forest Lane apartment, we needed to assemble some of our new furniture. My tools had not yet made it over to our new home so I went knocking on my neighbors’ doors to see if I could borrow a hammer. Met with headshakes in the negative at each one I tried, I arrived at the last one. A spry older woman with a wonderful smile opened it. “Yes,” she said, “I have a hammer I can lend you.” That was approximately ten years ago and the beginning of a wonderful friendship with my neighbor Laura Dodge. I loved her spunk and her bright mind, but most of all I treasured her kind heart.

Over time as we visited and got to know one another, she told me her entertaining stories and shared her crafts with me. She also at my request shared space in her freezer with me. Over her protests I paid her “rent” in fruit sweetened jams and frozen desserts. She also had Stephen and me to tea and made popovers and other treats for us. I have recipes of hers in my collection that she wrote out in her tiny script. When she visited us in our apartment she admired my husband Stephen’s art. “Would you like to try collage?” he asked, and handed her a canvas. “Here, have fun.” She began to turn out wonderful collages of her own, asking for guidance from her teacher, as she called Stephen.

As her canvasses mounted and her skill increased, Stephen arranged for her to have art shows two years running at a restaurant in Worcester. Many came to her openings and admired and purchased her collages. We invited her to our birthday parties and she became popular with our friends. Everyone loved her stories. We included her in some of our shopping trips, took her to the Worcester Art Museum, and through a car wash, which she said was a first for her. When at Stephen’s suggestion she began to make dolls, we had fun helping her with designs. Eventually we loaned her a cabinet to keep them in.

When we met she was quite able physically, considering. As time went on and her physical health became worse, she couldn’t get out as much as she used to. Many of the evenings that she was home I would go down and visit with her. She had pain in her legs and in her back. At her request, I did some energy healing for her, singing to her and using my hands to remove painful energy and replace it with healing energy.

The day came when she could no longer live by herself. When she moved out we were both sad to part. We moved too very shortly, yet we kept in touch by telephone nearly every day. It was always a joy to hear the stories of her life and daily doings. Despite her many ailments and illnesses, she was so very filled with life. One of my favorite things she told me was, “It’s a small life, but I make it interesting.” Laura was an inspiration to me and to many others as well. I will miss her always.

Do you have a story to share with me or a suggestion for a column? I love hearing from readers. Send me an email at tashahal@gmail.com.

Soaking by Tasha Halpert

Tree, Leaf and Puddle    When I was small if I got a cut my mother often put iodine on it. I hated that because it stung like anything, and it turned my finger orange. Sometimes she used alcohol, which was equally bad. As a somewhat clumsy and heedless child I often fell down, banged myself, cut myself or otherwise got scraped up, so I was well acquainted with these disinfectants and the white Band-Aids that always hurt when they were pulled off.

As an adult I prefer something easier and more pleasant: soaking. I thought about this recently as I soaked my sore finger. I had stuck with a knife and the small wound was bothersome. As I did so it I thought of how well the application of hot water works to heal small cuts and infections as well as reduce swellings. Over time it speeds up the healing process and prevents infections from spreading. Heat is a remarkable healer. However I would probably have been too impatient as a child for soaking.

Heat also can work wonders in other ways. Last month I pulled a muscle in my thigh. Nothing seemed to help or make it better until my acupuncturist suggested applying a heating pad to it three times a day for twenty to thirty minutes. The pain soon diminished and it took only about a week or so to go away completely. Soaking the sore muscle in heat did the trick. Combined with a bit of patience, soaking is good medicine.

Soaking has a number of virtues. An important aspect of the soaking process, however, is time. For instance, the best way to clean a sticky, gummy pot, pan or dish is to soak it for a while. Often hot water is all that is needed to resolve whatever has adhered itself to the utensil. Occasionally the addition of soap or a scrubbing sponge helps. Once again, soaking plus time equals situation resolved. It is remarkable how much hot water helps to resolve a difficult or even a painful problem.

Stains on clothing also respond to soaking, though sometimes it is cold water that is wanted rather than hot, depending on the stain. Soaking also works as well for physical aches and pains. When the body is achy, one of the great luxuries in life is a hot bath in which to soak. Epsom salts, an inexpensive remedy added to the hot water in the tub increases its efficacy.

In today’s fast paced world impatient people often seek speedy resolutions. Medicine must work overnight if not immediately. With the correct chemicals clothes, pots and pans must sparkle right away. This attitude doesn’t allow for the gentle, safe application of time and soaking. An old fashioned way of doing things can often be more effective, less expensive and in many ways perhaps easier over all.