I went to visit my father recently. He had a stroke about 9 months ago and is now a permanent resident in an assisted living facility. He hasn’t yet regained the use of the right side of his body, so he relies heavily on my step-mom and his nurses to tend to his every need.
Every several months I have the opportunity to travel from Ohio to Wisconsin to see him. Each time I go, my heart breaks at the thought of leaving.
Have you ever had that feeling? It seems like it’s almost easier to stay away because then we can go about our daily routines and pretend nothing is wrong. I can almost convince myself that my dad is out fishing for the day or sitting in his sunroom reading a good Western.
Yet, my heart longs to sit by my father’s side and hold his hand and tell him how grateful I am for him.
Just before I left for my trip, I got a letter from a Fargo man named Don Hogenson who wanted to share his experience as a resident in a full-service retirement community.
Timing is everything. Reading Don’s letter before heading to see my dad made me look at the people in my father’s life with observant and grateful eyes.
The longer I live at Touchmark, the more I understand how much kindness is a part of who we are.
Acts of random kindness appear regularly in various publications. They usually happen in restaurants or grocery stores, but what I want to share is kindness in the context of a senior living community.
Let’s start with a senior whose eyesight is failing. Somebody will read the dining room menu to them.
Or the senior who has arthritic hands and has difficulty with using various instruments. A friend is there to help them.
When the battery fails on a scooter, two other seniors will push the vehicle to the charging station.
Or how about helping someone move their chair closer to the table in the bingo room or spotting a number to make sure they don’t miss a ‘Bingo’ win.
Or always encouraging their friends to get out of their apartments and socialize, which we know can increase the mental situation with seniors.
My dear wife, Carol, died shortly after we arrived at Touchmark. I was lost.
A couple days later, I wandered into the dining room and wondered where I should sit. A group of three very nice ladies asked me if I wanted to join them. I did and then had dinner with them regularly for many months. Their kindness helped me deal with my loss.
Finally, one lady encouraged me to try joining some men for dinner so I could have some ‘man talk’. I took her advice and now have new male friends as well.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. Kindness can be part of our nature if we allow it. It is good for the recipient and good for the soul.
If you want to see kindness in action, spend a few days at a senior living facility.”
Thanks to Don’s letter, this time when I went to visit my father, instead of seeing wheelchairs and oxygen machines, I saw people. I saw people visiting with new friends and reminiscing about old ones.
My heart was lighter than usual when I left because I know my dad is in good hands. He has people to care for him and people who care for him. And if you’ve got friendship and kindness in your life, what else do you need?
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.