Friday, May 20, 2011

Saturday Smiles

I’d like to give you a list of five people who just might restore your faith in humanity and what better day to do that than when the world is supposed to come to an end?

Doesn’t it feel great when someone does or says something that may seem like nothing to them but has such a huge impact on us? Whenever that happens, it doesn’t always make me a more thoughtful (or quiet) person but it is a nice reminder and makes me try to be mindful of the things coming out of my mouth. I remind myself, too, that I can either focus on what really irritates me (and believe me, my list is long!) or I can focus on examples of good, caring people who make the world a better place (and, no, I’m not talking about the person who greets me by name at the local coffee shop although, I admit, I’m a sucker for that). What the heck, we’ll make this a list of six people instead of five.

1. Friendly baristas. A person being nice to me while keeping me caffeinated? What’s not to love?

2. Stranger in the Mall. Robert, Hubby and I and some of Robert’s friends from Day Program were at a local mall cruising along at a speed you might expect from a group using walkers and wheelchairs. A woman pushing a stroller walked quickly by Robert who tripped at the exact moment she passed us. I, of course, thought he would fall and land on her baby, traumatizing the little bundle of joy and ending all of our future trips to the mall (please note I had to rewrite that sentence so the priority was the baby. My initial priority was future trips to the mall – I may have a shopping problem.). Anyway, I grabbed Robert’s arm to steady him and Hubby steadied him from the rear and Robert remained upright. I thought all was well until the woman with the stroller stopped to talk to the Day Program Aide a few feet ahead of us. Was she complaining about Robert almost falling on her precious cargo? Was she telling the Aide these people with helmets and wheelchairs and walkers should watch where they are going? No. She was apologizing because she thought she had startled Robert enough to cause him to trip.

I need to stop assuming the worst in people.

3. Person at Day Program. There is a helpful man at Robert’s Day Program. You’d think everyone who worked there would be helpful (which they are actually) but this person doesn’t work there – he’s a client. When Hubby and I walked into Day Program, we were greeted by several clients but this kind man took the initiative to tell a Counselor we were there. When the clients (including Robert) were being loaded onto the bus for our trip to the mall, this man helped make sure everyone made it on the bus. When Hubby and I met the bus at the mall, this sweet person retrieved a walker from the bus for one client and set it up on the sidewalk for him. He then went back on the bus and got Robert’s walker and set that up as well while the Counselors were unloading the clients in wheelchairs. When we walked into the mall, he was the one holding the door open for everyone. He seemed to always be looking out for the other clients and being helpful to the Counselors.

I feel so fortunate to have met him.

4. CNA at a Skilled Nursing Facility. I still think of how kind this woman was when Robert was recovering from a staph infection while living at the Skilled Nursing Facility. She was always respectful and kind to Robert and showed such compassion for all of the clients and their families. I think what really made her unforgettable was how non-judgmental or resentful she was when she needed to change a bedridden client’s protective brief. That is not a fun job yet she handled it swiftly, with care and dignity. The facility was lucky to have her and the clients were lucky she chose that as a career.

Just thinking about her kindness kind of makes up for those workers who just dial it in.

5. Underpaid, Underappreciated Workers at Care Facilities (most of them, anyway). There is one Aide who makes sure clients have cheeseburgers instead of just hamburgers because she knows that’s what they like. There is another Aide who makes sure Robert showers at a time that doesn’t interfere with his game shows (that’s someone who pays attention!). There is another worker who plays games with the low functioning clients because she knows it makes them happy to sit at the table and create noise with different games.

No matter how many boxes of cookies I bring, it is never enough to thank them for their compassion.

6.  Fellow Caregivers. In seeking out support from others in the caregiving “family,” I have met some truly wonderful people. There is a woman who cares for her mom full-time who also has a goal of putting a specific book about caregiving in at least one library in each state. She also has created fundraisers to help raise money for other caregivers struggling financially. Another woman cares for husband with such love and compassion and humor even though he rarely knows that she is his wife. Yet another woman cared for her parents before they died and now cares for her husband who drew the short straw of a form of early onset dementia. The list goes on but there are many, many people who care for family members (or even a family friend) and do so without pay and often without even being recognized by their loved one.

These are just some of the people who have made an impact on me. I hope they’ve made an impact on you too. That is, if the world hasn’t ended yet!


Heidi Alberti & Atticus Uncensored said...

Trish, this post left tears in my eyes... I love that you are focusing on all the good in the world instead of your "list of irritations" :) That is a lesson for all of us!

The other big lesson for me in this post is how the smallest act of kindness can deeply impact another's life. We can all be perpetrators of little acts of kindness throughout the day... I know I'll be more conscious of waggy at everyone I meet! :)

Heidi & Atticus
"commentary to give you paws..."

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Good idea! A tail wagging dog always makes people happy! Thanks for spreading some kindness and joy, Atticus (and Heidi).

Judy Stone-Goldman said...

Trish, I could tell right away that I was going to enjoy reading your post because of the combination of genuine kindness and caring along with some good humor. I've had a long career working with people with disabilities, and also a shorter career taking care of an elderly aunt (whom I relocated to put into a good facility). The compassionate people you describe make it possible to go on, and at least for me, to let go of any self-pity that may have worked its way into my psyche. It goes without saying that Robert is lucky to have you, and the world is lucky to have people who care.

Wonderful to have you in our group.

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
“My cat owns me, my clutter stymies me, my writing frees me. Word maven loves—and learns from—ordinary life.”

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thank you, Judy, for reading and for your kind comments. I am excited to visit your blog and to get to know a fellow cat lover!