(Names have been changed)
This world is full of goodness. People are generous and caring and willing to help. As we age, we sometimes lose focus on what is good around us and (if only for a while) wallow in the experiences that have upset us and caused us pain. Our perspective gets distorted and we see evil where there is none intended, and cruelty in the place of thoughtlessness.
We embrace grudges and hang them in gold frames in the living room of our mind. Well spouses fall prey to this perhaps more often then the rest of us as they cope with the hardships of their daily lives. What often rescues us is the perception of children. Clear and undistorted by years of disappointment, children often remind us that people are basically good and caring. Their view of the world, their generosity of spirit, help us take down the grudge picture and remind us that the world is full of positives. All we have to do is be willing to see them.
“It had been the hardest two years I could remember. I was a “veteran” well spouse and thought I had been through it all. For more years than I’d like to remember, I had dealt with the ups and downs of the disease and always managed. But this time it was different. Perhaps it was harder because I was getting older, or more tired, or more depressed. Perhaps it was because my children were gone and the need to be strong for them was no longer there. Whatever the reason, I found myself forgetting to pay bills, keep appointments, and I was generally taking longer to do everything.
I prioritized and way down on my list was the gifts I owed. My refrigerator seemed wallpapered with invitations to weddings, bar mitzvas, graduations and birth announcements. It was my filing system. I kept the invitations on the fridge until the gift was sent. As some of these invitations were by now almost two years old, I decided it was time to take a day and catch up with my gift giving. I did it resentfully, without my usual joy in sharing thoughts of happy occasions, wishing I could use the time for something more self-indulgent.
With each delayed gift went a note of explanation about my husband’s deteriorating health over the past two years, and an apology for the lateness of the gift. It was only when I received this thank you note from a Bar Mitzva Boy whose Bar Mitzva was almost two years ago that I did a complete turn about. Here was a teen, an age that is synonymous with self-indulgence, showing more generosity of heart than I had shown for a long time. His note pulled me out of my depression, as his selflessness and generosity made me ashamed of my own self absorbed behavior.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. T…
Thank you for the money and the card. It was very generous of you. In your letter to me, you said that you were sorry that you were late. After reading your card, I realized that you shouldn’t be sorry at all. I thank you for being one of the few people in this world who puts others in front of themselves. I am going to take $25 from what you gave me and I am going to give it to a fund to try and help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
Miriam continues: “I have kept this letter. It is hanging on my fridge where I can see it every day. It is still surrounded by invitations that need gifts sent. But I send these gifts with a more joyous heart now, celebrating the milestones they honor. Whenever I see this note, my heart sings. No matter how difficult my day may have been, I feel joy. I feel joy and gratitude that a young teen reminded me of the generosity and caring of people, and that the world is indeed full of goodness.”
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