Is that your duck…or just a quacker?

lessons-from-ducks

As many of you know, I live on a beautiful lake in east Tennessee. Words like “breathtaking” or “beautiful” are so inadequate to describe the beauty and nature that I am fortunate enough to see each day. It would be like saying that a hurricane is a “little wind.” Words are just useless…but, hopefully, you catch my drift. Each morning, I look forward to what the day may reveal in the way of natural beauty and nature. We have had a wonderful Spring – not too hot, not too cool. Just right! And, oh my, the flowers, smells, sunrises, sunsets and new little “nature babies” are everywhere. So this week’s post is about some of those little babies…

We don’t know what happened to her, only that she was hurt. At first, we couldn’t figure out whether she had been hit by a car, been in a fight with a predator, or had gotten her foot stuck in a crevice or between rocks. The bottom line, however, was that she could only hop around on one foot. There was no way we could catch her, to take her to the vet. We simply had to watch her struggles, and each morning we were greeted with apprehension as to whether she had made it through another night, or had succumbed to the injury and died. Despite all the odds, she seemed to get stronger each day, and although her foot did not completely heal the way it was supposed to, she could still fly, and she now walked with a limp – a little “hop” actually. So one of our neighbors (the animal-loving ones…) named her “Hoppy.”

For the past three years, we have looked forward to Hoppy returning to our lake (and homes) each spring. This year, she had a little surprise for us…she was pregnant, and ended up having 11 (count ’em – ELEVEN) little ducklings. They have been adorable and we have had so much fun watching their “antics,” and watching them grow each day. As a result of my doing this, I have made some huge discoveries regarding motherhood.

Each day, this little mother has been responsible for feeding all of the ducklings, teaching them the “ways of the wild,” and keeping them safe every moment of their lives. (By the way, she really is a single Mom, with no help from anyone else, with the exception of a few neighbors who put out food for her and the babies.) We usually try not to count how many babies there are, because when you see that one is missing, you know that something bad happened. But I can’t seem to help myself, I count. So far (and they are almost totally grown now) she has only lost ONE baby. That is remarkable for this lake area, as we have eagles and hawks!

I have spent hours watching them, and what I see amazes me!! On one occasion, she apparently sensed some “danger” nearby, emitted a little sound that I could just barely hear, and every one of those ten babies swam to her side as if she were a magnet, and then they swam as “one unit” away from the danger, with her wings spread over them. You could hardly tell where a duckling started or ended. They looked like one bundle of feathers going down the lake.

I have watched as she finds a food source, and makes certain that each duckling is eating – all while she fervently scans about for danger. She is at attention and on guard every moment. Once they have all eaten, she will eat a little herself, and then off they go. It has been so much fun watching those babies learning how to eat. Some times they get too tired and will simply lay down in front of the food and eat. Other times, they will peck around the area quickly, getting as much food as possible. On another occasion, we had just put a little cracked corn out for them, knowing that they would be showing up within minutes to eat. In fact, they were in the next lot, watching us, waiting for the food. Mama took her time, but as she was watching the area closely, three HUGE crows zoomed into the tree just above the pile of corn. “In a New York second,” Mom gave another signal (I never heard it…), and ALL TEN of those babies raced over to the food before the crows could even get out of the tree! One crow made the mistake of trying to peck a little one, and Mama gave him a pretty good bite. He did not make a second attempt, and the babies got the food that was intended for them.

After eating, Mom took them back down to the water, and showed them how to “clean up.” She ducked her head under the water, came back up, spread her wings and flapped, all the while cleaning herself. Once she had done that a couple of times, she then gave another “silent” signal and all the babies began doing the same thing! Some got it right; some had to work at it a little harder. They were so adorable, doing everything that Mom did in perfect synchronization.

Those babies are smart! When Mom gives them direction, they respond immediately! They don’t lag behind, they don’t question “why,” they just act upon her instruction. Somehow they know that their livelihood and success depends solely on the teachings of their parent. And, of course, watching them got me to thinking about human parents and what lessons they are teaching their children. Do they let their children “slide,” and not follow directions or advice? Do they teach them lessons for failure or success? Do they love the children enough to be disciplined and to discipline? And most importantly, do they teach them by example? Those baby ducks get it! They KNOW that if they don’t do exactly what Mom is doing, they will not live to see another day. What are your children, grandbabies, nieces, nephews, etc., seeing when they watch you or observe your daily life actions? Is it something that will help them face the battles in life? Will they learn love and respect by watching what you do? Will they learn how to treat others with kindness and compassion? Will they learn how to work together? Will they realize the wonder and joy of what it means to be part of a family? Are you teaching them skills that can be used to succeed in life? Just WHAT are you saying to others as you live your life each day? Animals seem to get this…wouldn’t it be wonderful if humans got it too? Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

It’s just what I do…

One of the great blessings in my life is that I have wonderful friends who live all over the world! We can go weeks, months, or even years without seeing each other, and still slip into that easy comfort of closeness and friendship when we do actually get together. What makes things even more fun is when we meet for a fun-filled vacation at various “spots” that appeal to our sense of adventure and relaxation. This week’s story is about one such “adventure….”

Anyone who knows me, knows what I have done in my career, and why… I have worked all of my life working with, advocating for, protecting, providing care, and LOVING “old” people. The correct word to describe them is “elders,” but I wanted all of you to understand who I am talking about. I know that my love for this special group started as a child, loving my grandparents. And, oh my, did I LOVE them!! That love continued to grow as I fell hard and fast for each and every old person who attended all of my Daddy’s little country churches over the years. So, when I say I LOVE old people, it is not said lightly. It means they FILL my heart, that my emotions swell with joy, love, compassion, and that I just want to take care of them and make certain they have a wonderful quality of life.

Now, getting back to the story…As much as I love elders, there are times when I don’t want to feel the responsibility of caring for them; times when I simply want to turn off all the feelings, just relax and take care of me for a little while. I call these times vacations! And to be honest, I really have to work at turning off those “nurturing” feelings during this all too short timeframe. I don’t want to see an old person, think about an old person, take care of an old person…

So, some of my friends and I decided to go the “islands” for a vacation, and we were all going to meet in Atlanta at the airport and then fly to our final destination. All of our flights actually arrived on time in Atlanta (which was EXTREMELY UNUSUAL – lol!), and we had a “decent” layover before the next connecting flight. As we were sitting at our gate, waiting, we began to smell freshly popped popcorn. Our noses went on alert, searching for the source. I finally said, “I’ll go find the popcorn and get us some!” I began making my way down the terminal, just like an old coon dog, sniffing out where the popcorn was. I finally saw a little kiosk…the source of that wonderful smell. Standing behind the kiosk was an employee who obviously thought that this was her very last day on earth, and she had to come to work!! Really, what an attitude!! Grumpy and rude would not even begin to describe this woman accurately.

Standing in front of the kiosk was a short, very old woman, who would have fit Hollywood’s usual portrayal of a Russian itinerant worker. Her face was tracked with hundreds of lines reflecting a very long life of hardship, poverty, and possible sorrow. Shoulders stooped, the woman wore a dark olive shawl, draped over her head, and a long, thick skirt in the same color and material. Workman boots completed the outfit, and there was not one tooth in her mouth that I could see. And, she was OLD! From my observations, I determined that she could not speak the English language, and she did not have any money; however, she wanted some popcorn. She was trying to convey to the horrible employee that she just wanted a little taste of the popcorn, but did not have any money. I was standing in line behind the Russian woman, and there was this monster-sized cowboy standing behind me. He had to have been from Texas! He wore a huge 10-gallon hat, had cowboy boots the size of watermelons, and I’m certain he had to turn sideways to get those shoulders through a door!

As I was standing there, I began to feel my heart starting up…FEELING…wanting to put my arms around her…wanting to protect her…wanting to simply love her…My brain kicked in to counteract those feelings…stop it…you are on vacation…not your job…not your responsibility…you NEED this break…I emotionally took a step back to see how the situation might develop. The little Russian woman continued to try to convey what she wanted, and the employee continued to get uglier and uglier in her actions. The employee then “shushed” and waved the woman away, like she was a fly or insect. That was all it took for me. I swept into action, vacation or no vacation, it did not matter at that point. I leaned in to the employee, and in a voice that you hope you don’t EVER hear from me, said these words, “Give her the largest bag of popcorn that you have. Put a smile on your face as you are giving the popcorn to her, and THANK HER for her business! I will pay for it!! Do it NOW!” The employee hurriedly did exactly what I asked. As she was doing this, the cowboy leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Ma’am, if you had not done that, I was fixin’ to!” (Yes, cowboys ARE wonderful!!) The Russian woman realized what I had done, and followed me all the way to my gate, blowing kisses to me, with a big ole’ smile on her face. That is what my friends saw as I came back to my seat with their popcorn. I gave them all of their popcorn, and nobody said anything until we had “settled in.” They then all looked at me, and said, “What did you do this time?” My response? “Oh, you know me…It’s what I do…”

How can you NOT do a kindness for someone when it is well within your power to do so? Whether a person is old, young, middle-aged, poor, rich, in-between, what does it matter? The compassion and power to help others is something that lies within all of us. Some of us just act more readily when prompted. Amy Grant’s grandfather, A. M. Burton, made a statement years ago that went something like this: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” How about joining me in giving as much as we can, whenever we can? It’s what we do! Just for this week…

The sweetest lady took care of me last night…

Those of you who have followed this blog have noticed that I have been “quiet” for a while. Every now and then you simply need a little time to “refresh” yourself, and I guess that is what I have been doing. “They” tell us that most individuals conduct a “self-analysis” of their lives every 10-12 years – to determine if we are on the “right path;” or if our accomplishments have been what we strove to attain; or simply if we are “happy.” This self-examination often coincides with those birthdays that end in a “zero.” I have always been off schedule in that my self evaluations never coincide with the BIG birthdays…So I guess that is what I have been doing for the last 9 months or so. I keep thinking that maybe people are tired of my stories and that I should stop, but then I get an annual report that indicates I have thousands of followers in 77 countries. Those numbers simply take my breath away! I am humbled, and think, that maybe, just maybe, people need to hear some of my truths…and some of my craziness. So……I am back for a while. Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please become a follower, and leave me a comment now and then. I love hearing from you guys!

Most of you know that my Mama is the main reason for this blog, that she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and that some of the stories involve our journey through that living hell. Today is such a story. We tried to keep Mother at home, as long as possible, taking care of her ourselves. My Father was the main caregiver, with help from each of the children. Each month, I would go down and stay with them for a week or two at a time.

On this particular visit, Mama certainly recognized me, and during the days, we would visit, laugh, and love on each other. Each night, I would sleep in a bed right next to hers so that I would be able to hear if she needed something, or attempted to get up by herself. On this night, she woke up around midnight, needing to go to the bathroom. We kept a potty chair at her bedside during the night to make everything easier and more comfortable for her. I got up and helped her get out of bed, and assisted her with both verbal direction and physical assistance. When your brain is atrophying, and signals are being neither sent nor received, something so simple as going to the bathroom can become a huge challenge for both the caregiver and the person needing care. It took us a while, but with patience, compassion, and simple communication, we were able to accomplish what she needed.

The next morning, Mama woke up early, all bright and cheerful. I jumped up, went over to her, gave her a kiss and said, “Good morning!” As I was helping her up for that first cup of coffee, she looked at me and said, “The sweetest lady helped me all night long! She was so nice!” I looked at her and said, “Mama, that is wonderful! I am so glad that someone sweet was there to help you.”

Now, as we know, I WAS THAT SWEET LADY! In the night, she never knew, or recognized, that it was her own daughter providing care and assistance. And for me, it just did not matter! I did not care WHO got the credit for providing the care. I was just glad that she saw me as someone who was caring, sweet, and willing to help.

This event made me wonder how we view ourselves when helping another person(s), and why we choose to help someone else. I am not referring to just health care, or physical assistance. I’m talking about ANY time we provide help, whether it is giving someone directions who is lost, holding a door open for someone out of courtesy, slipping someone a little cash to cover an unmet need, lending physical assistance when friends are moving into a new house, or just listening when someone needs to talk. It could be ANYTHING!! Do we provide help because we want recognition or credit that we “did a good deed,” or because it makes us look good to others? Is it a selfless act, wanting nothing in return? Or do we want “credit where credit is due?” I often wonder if we would be as generous in our giving, if we knew no one would ever know… A.M. Burton, grandfather to Amy Grant (a well-known gospel singer), stated the following: “Life is made up of golden chances, opportunities to do good. One lost is lost forever. If we miss doing a kindness to a friend, we can never do that kindness again. If we might speak a pleasant word, or offer a bit of worthwhile counsel or advice and fail to do so, we can never have just that opportunity again. Giving is a way of life.” I want my giving and helping to be selfless. I don’t need the recognition or credit. I want it to be given out of caring and love. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

“I don’t want to be a burden…”

Most of you know that I began this blog as a way to deal with my own grief…while watching my Mother slowly die, literally and figuratively, of Alzheimer’s Disease. Those who loved her beyond reason, had to stand by and watch her descend into that living hell. She remained home, with family, until we could no longer give her the care that she so desperately needed. One of our strategies, to keep her home as long as possible, was to “share” the responsibility of her care among the four children and my Father. Part of my responsibility (and honor) was to stay with her and Daddy, one week out of every month (more often, as I could)…

Mother had gotten to a point where she could not bathe herself, go to the bathroom by herself, or feed herself. So, on this particular day, it was time for her shower. I found it easier (and safer) to just get in the shower with her, and gently bathe her as we talked, laughed, and reminisced. Some times this was a difficult task for her, in that she could not follow or understand anything that I was saying. Other times, bathing was easy, and she would assist me with her own care.

We were both in the shower, drenched from head to toe, and she placed her hand on my arm and made me stop. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I never wanted you children to have to do this. I never wanted to be a burden.” Those words broke my heart and I struggled to find just the right thing to say, to convince her that she was never a burden to us. With a smile on my face, I said, “Mama, didn’t you tell me that when I was a baby, while nursing, the only way you could get me to go to sleep was to let me pinch the skin under your arm, and roll it back and forth between my fingers?” She smiled so sweetly with the memory, and said, “Yes, that’s right.” I asked her, “Didn’t it hurt?” She said, “Yes, but that motion somehow soothed you, and you would go to sleep every time.” I then said, “Didn’t you spend countless, sleepless nights, sitting by my bed, or laying beside me, or just holding me, because I was so sick that you would not leave me alone?” Again, she said, “Yes, I did!” I continued to tell her that there were too many examples to count, too many memories of selfless sacrifices that she had made not only in my behalf, but for all of her children. I asked her if she considered being our Mother a burden. She looked at me in shock, and said, “No! I loved all of you, and I wanted to take care of you!” I then explained that we were doing the same thing for her now; that we wanted to take care of her, out of our love for her. She smiled through tears, and said “OK, then! That’s settled.”

Some times the greatest gift we can give someone is to simply accept their help and caring. Those who are being cared for DO feel like a “burden” to their family. You have a choice as to how you are going to make that person feel…You have a choice as to HOW you are going to give that care – either out of guilt or out of love…and your actions will indicate which choice you made. Have you let your parents, or loved ones, know that they are NOT a burden? Or do you let them know how inconvenienced you are? I tell families and caregivers all the time, “It’s not that you just gave the care, and got it accomplished, but rather, HOW you gave the care.” Do you make them feel guilty? Let those individuals, the ones you are caring for, know that providing care and assistance is an act of love… I don’t ever want someone I love to feel as if they are a burden to me. Caring should be given freely, from the heart. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Man! She has an attitude!!

As mentioned in last week’s post, I indicated that I wanted to share the “powers” that each of us have within our grasp, but that many fail to see them. It usually takes a life-changing event to show a person what they are made of! So this is a continuation on that topic… I would like to show people that they don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to realize their strength. These “powers” are something that we can utilize and engage every day of our lives. Last week’s power was FAITH. This week’s power is ATTITUDE!

You get up one morning, and you’re feeling great; “on top of the world,” in fact. You KNOW that this is going to be a good day! You get dressed for work, get in your car, and merge into traffic. Everything is going really well, until someone begins riding your bumper, trying to make you go faster than you want. You can tell just by their demeanor, they have watched too much NASCAR racing, and they have convinced themselves they are, indeed, an accomplished race driver. When you think they cannot possibly get any closer to your back bumper, they finally whiz around you, and cut back in front of you so close, that you have to slam on brakes to avoid rear-ending THEM! The coffee you were drinking spills over on your clothes, and your fingers have now been burnt and are sticky. At this point, that wonderful feeling you had before leaving the house is gone! For many, this one moment will define the day for them. No matter how good their intentions were when leaving the house, everything has now been ruined. You end up with a lousy attitude for the rest of the day…

Basically, you gave that perfect stranger the control to impact your day. You’ve allowed this person to take away the positive feelings that you had when you started out that morning. You’ve allowed one simple, random act of ignorance to influence your attitude, and destroy your day.

I come across a lot of people who would love nothing better than to cause me to be as miserable as they are. But you know what? I don’t allow it, because I can control and direct my attitude. Believe me, I have found that the negative, ne’er sayer doesn’t get as much accomplished in life, and they seem to be miserable all the time. You’ve seen those people…seemingly with a dark, black cloud over their heads all the time. Gloom and doom seems to follow them around.

I like being positive. I believe very strongly that “positive” begets “positive.” I believe that you can change the direction of your life, and your success, by simply having a positive attitude. I was at a conference not too long ago…one that was three days long, and I was speaking at some point each day. After the second day, I had a conference attendee come up to me and say, “I’ve been watching you during this conference, and you’re different.” (Now, I seem to be told this quite often, and at the beginning, I can never figure out if being different is a good thing, or a bad thing…) I looked at the individual and responded, “How so?” She said, “When you enter a room, you seem to own it!” I guess I must had indicated by facial expression that the statement might not be a compliment. She immediately spoke again, and said,”I can see that I did not convey my thoughts accurately, because I certainly did not mean anything negative. What I meant to say is that when you enter a room, you EXPECT acceptance!” I looked at her bewildered, and said, “Of course! I DO expect acceptance! Why would I enter a room thinking that I would not be accepted?” I cannot imagine anyone getting up each morning, looking in a mirror, and saying to themselves…”Let’s go be a failure today!” I think you get what you expect! It is all about attitude! It is like the little train who thought he could…”I think I can…I think I can…” You know the ending…HE DID!!

Because I fly a lot, I am a member of numerous airline frequent flyer programs. As a result, the more miles you have, the more “perks” you receive. I used to fly Northwest Airlines quite a bit before Delta bought them out. Northwest called their frequent flyers “Elite.” It had been one of those trips where flight after flight had been either delayed or cancelled. All I needed was one more flight to get home, and it was not looking optimistic…We had been waiting in the gate area for hours upon hours. Everyone was so tired, including the young female agent who was very patiently enduring quite a bit of abuse from weary travelers. It got to be midnight, and the moment finally arrived when we were all going to be able to board the plane and get in the air. I stood in line, waiting for the agent to take my ticket and let me board. As I gave her the ticket, she paused a moment, and said, ” Ms. Selman, are you Elite?” I looked at her, smiled (although I was as exhausted as anyone else that night), gave her a little wink, and said, “As if I would be ANYTHING else…” She cracked up laughing, and said, “Go on and get your seat then.” Unfortunately, due to all of the rebooking of flights, my seat was at the very rear of the plane. I placed my briefcase underneath the seat, placed my coat in the overhead bin, and settled in. Just as I had finished doing all of that, I heard an attendant state, “Would passenger Selman please press your call light?” My first thought was, “Oh no! They are going to bump me from this flight!! I’m never going to get home tonight!” So, I reached up and pressed the call light. The agent from the gate came down to my seat and said, “Ms. Selman, please get your things and come with me.” I stood up, got my coat, got my briefcase and followed her, all the time asking, “Where are we going?” She said, “You’ll see!” She then proceeded to take me to the first class cabin and gave me a seat there for my trip home! Now, I know there were a lot of people on that flight, who were at higher “Elite” status than me; however, I got the first class seat because of my positive attitude. And to be honest, that happens a lot for me!

I refuse to let people bring me down with their negativity. I enjoy life! I enjoy being positive! And yes, I DO expect acceptance. I always see the glass as being half full…Life can be so much fuller, satisfying and wonderful if you go through each day with a positive outlook…even when things don’t always go your way. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Are you hungry?

In just a few days we will welcome in another brand new year! 2014. Can you believe it? It seems that it was just a “short while” ago that I was introducing you to my project for the year…this blog. I cannot believe the year has gone so fast, and that this week’s post will be my 52nd article. As you know, I began this blog in an effort to focus my mind on some “positives,” week by week, to help me through a difficult period of pain and loss. It has helped me more than I can say, and if the comments, support and encouragement received are indicators of your enjoyment, the effort was more than successful! So, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has followed me in my journey for the entire year. With the passing of one year into the next, what better opportunity to write a story about time?

Have you noticed that all of us complain about not having enough time to get everything done? It seems that the faster I go, the “behinder” I get. Not long ago, I asked a close friend whether she thought I was getting slower, or did I just have more “demands” for my time coming across my desk. Ever the diplomat, she said, “Well, we’re all getting a little slower, but you DO have a lot coming across your desk.” Hmmm…I can remember when I first started my career. I was part of a corporate team responsible for 101 nursing homes in seven states. I was wired!! I could do 3-4 tasks at a time, and not bat an eye. I was in a different city or state every other day. I moved…and I moved fast…I got the job done! I lived and breathed by a watch, clock, and calendar! If I sat down at home to “relax,” I was doing several things at one time while sitting. I could not just sit still, doing nothing for even ten minutes. I was always checking that watch, to make certain I would meet a deadline, or to determine when and where I needed to be next.

When I finally resigned from the company that I had worked with most of my adult life, and started a business with a friend of mine, I was determined that I would truly stop rushing all of the time and learn how to relax. It was one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do in my life. I really could NOT sit still for ten minutes. So, I was determined…I began timing myself…it was MISERABLE! I tried and tried to relax and have more time for doing the things I enjoyed, but I was not being very successful.

One day I was with a friend, and I had forgotten to wear a watch. I kept asking her what time it was. She asked me why I needed to know the time. I told her that I needed to know if it was time to eat lunch. She looked at me with a perplexed expression, and asked, “Are you hungry?” And at that very moment, with that very statement, everything slipped right into perspective for me! I realized that I was letting a little electrical mechanism control every second of my life! Did I really need a small attachment to my wrist to tell me when I should eat, or go to bed, or do anything? So, the watch came off! And it has stayed off! I only use it now to make certain I begin and end my speaking engagements on time. The change in my life was wonderful! I can now actually sit for long periods of time relaxing. I now make choices on how I truly want to spend my time, and with whom I want to be with. I make my time count…for me. 

Time is so precious, and is gone before we realize it. All of us have the very same amount of time each day…24 hours. What makes the difference in what can be accomplished in that time is YOU and your CHOICES! You can choose to take on so much responsibility that you will never get it all done. You will always come up short, because simply put, you have too many irons in the fire! Or, you can decide what is truly important and worthy of your precious time, and use it wisely to pursue those efforts. In other words, make your time “count.” One of my favorite sayings comes from the prophet, Kahlil Gibran, who said, “For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.” “Hours to live…not to kill…” What a wonderful statement and premise. This year I’m not making any resolutions. (I never have done that, to be honest.) I am simply going to spend my time with “hours to live,” and I am going to keep the watch off of my arm, and eat when I am hungry. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Is she OK?

It has been a wonderful week! A brisk, “nip” to the air…hearing from old and new friends…celebrating life and renewal with those I love…What more could you ask for??? Hope your week was wonderful also!!

Because I travel a great deal, and because I find human beings to be so wonderfully odd, interesting, bizarre, motivating, frustrating….I do a lot of “people watching.” I try to figure out their “stories,” as I am observing from my “viewing seat.” I have been offended, reassured, surprised, disgusted, delighted, and my heart has been touched at times by the actions of other people…”casual strangers,” if you will…

Until recently (when a new grocery store opened closer to my home), I did most of my grocery shopping in town at a large franchise grocer. I will admit, on occasion, I did like to get one of their deli lunches and eat “on site,” before hitting the aisles for groceries. This particular store had an outside covered dining area that was very pleasant. A friend of mine had come with me on this trip, and we had decided to get us a bite to eat before shopping. As we were eating, we noticed a much older Asian woman sitting about two tables from us with her buggy and purse. She was not so much actually sitting at the table, as she was sleeping at the table. She would occasionally rouse up, look around and go back to sleep. Of course, with my background and field of work, she was like a “red flag” waving in front  of me, calling for my attention. Not wanting to assume that there was something wrong with her, or that she was lost and did not know where she was, I had observed her for a while to determine what my action should be. Before I could get up to check on her, a young lady came from inside the deli, and asked if she could sit down with the older woman. The woman said, “Yes.” I was interested in where the conversation and interaction was going, so I did indeed eavesdrop. 

The young lady, with kindness, respect, and empathy, began talking with the older woman. During their conversation, she found out all of the necessary information to determine if the elder woman was lost, in distress, or needed help or assistance of any kind. She spent a good amount of time with her, just “visiting.” She never exhibited any condescension, impatience, or lack of respect as she interacted with the older woman. Finally, after apparently being satisfied that nothing was amiss, the young lady took her leave, thanking the older woman for giving her time and conversation.  After a few minutes, the older woman rose from the table, got her buggy and purse, and approached the entry door back into the grocery store. We stood up to help open the door, and the woman started a conversation with us. She said with a chuckle, “You know, I think that young lady thought there was something wrong with me. I had come to shop for groceries, but it looked so nice out here, I thought I would just stop and rest for a moment. She was so sweet to check on me, but everything is fine.” I chuckled along with her and commented that wasn’t it nice someone cared enough “just to check on you.” You could tell that she was pleased at both the concern and the interaction that she had experienced.

The young lady could have handled this situation so much differently…she could have “fussed” at the older woman for napping at one of their tables…she could have assumed that the lady was lost, and could have insulted her…she could have assumed that because she was older, that she was not capable of making “sound” decisions…Any of these scenarios would have ended up badly, because there really wasn’t anything wrong with the woman. It made me wonder how others might have handled the situation. Do we automatically assume the worst, when we see that an older person is involved? Do we automatically assume that an older person needs our guidance, that they don’t know what to do and can’t make decisions? Do we automatically speak to them in that child-like, sing-song voice, as if they have no sense at all??? Oh my, I think many of our elders just chuckle to themselves, and humor us… As I teach in my sessions, don’t label a person by age, race, ethnicity, gender, geographic region, religion or medical diagnosis – just to name a few…Get to know the person individually, and give them the opportunity to show you “who they are,” and what their capabilities, strengths, and needs might be. Look at the person as an individual…a real, live human being, who should be treated with all the respect and dignity that you can provide. That’s what I do! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…