Service–The times of setting the old and infirm out on ice burgs is well past

Feeling down in the dumps?  How about volunteering?  I am in the middle of a project I took on a few weeks ago.  An elderly lady with one dog had to join forces with her ailing daughter.  Neither could any longer live alone.  The daughter had several dogs.  Trying to combine two households of two very independent women is not the easiest thing to accomplish.  Each has years and years of stuff and memories.  Each wants to try and maintain their own autonomy.  Neither wants to get rid of their life long companions–their best friends–their pets.  Yet, they are always getting out and running the neighborhood, harassing the neighbors and in the case of one pet–getting its self hit by a car and killed.

The easy solution was to demand that they get rid of their dogs.   That solution would seem to be the obvious solution.   However, it is not the easiest solution.  I can’t face this elderly lady’s husband on the other side and tell him that I didn’t help his long time wife because it wasn’t convenient for me.    I could not turn my back on her and her daughter just because I thought they should be rational and just get rid of the dogs.  Yes, it might make it easier for me, but it would have caused great pain and loneliness for them.  After all, it’s about helping them to have a quality life, not making it easy on me.

So, when everyone else abandoned them in their time of need, I decided to build them a fence for the dogs.  Now, I am not saying that no one helped them.  We had a lot of church members there each weekend helping to move the daughter’s furniture into the small three bedroom home.  We had many women from the church helping to sort through stuff and help sell unwanted items in weekly garage sales.  And,  a nice young man from our church helped them bury one of the dogs when it got killed by a speeding car.  They did help.  But these women had no one and they needed a lot of help and people got burnt out with all their needs.  And I understand that.  But they stopped short and walked away when it came to the very last project they needed help with, and that was a fence to keep the dogs safe so they could enjoy their pets without fear and worry.

Many people place no value on pets.  Not only do they provide companionship, but it is a proven fact that having pets can reduce blood pressure and provide an all over increased wellness.  They are really important for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.  Pets are often times brought into nursing homes just for the purpose of providing quality life.  There is something about a pet that can increase longevity in the elderly.

And, I do know that there are those who feel that if they do not get rid of these pets, then they are forfeiting their right to help because these women could be using the money they spend on pet food to help themselves out.  Now, let me say this.  The times of setting the old and infirm out on ice burgs is well past.  These elderly and infirm people have value.  They have lived and seen many things.  We younger people seldom sit down and really listen to their stories.  We could glean a lot from their experience.  I guess it is a matter of respect.  Just because they are old or infirm,  doesn’t mean that we have the right to dictate their needs by how we see it.  Once again, service is meeting the needs of others, not judging their right to that service.  Enough ranting…On with the story.

I had just dismantled my own fence and had hundreds of fence boards stacked up in the back yard just in case I found a need for them.   I had landscape timbers I hadn’t used yet.  They would make nice posts.  And, I had materials to make a gate from scrap we had around the yard. We even had the screws.   The only thing I needed was the two by fours for the cross beams.  Some of those items were donated and the rest…well, I could very well dip into my own pocket to make up the difference.

So, my grand daughter and my 70 year old husband and I have been building a fence.  I dug the post holes.  They were easier than normal because we have had so much rain.  All the post are now cemented in the ground.     We finished the fence today.  That is why I am editing this blog entry.  I want to share with you what I discovered.  When I first wrote this, the fence was only half complete. Here is the rest of the story.

This morning we came over around 1:00 PM.  We had one electric screwdriver, and a circular saw.  My two grand daughters and myself started the day placing boards on the fence.  We had loaded about 50 on my husbands truck along with some studs for the cross beams.  Soon after we got there we noticed a neighbor, who lived across the street out mowing his lawn with his son.  He is a single father.  One of my grand daughters recognized them from the YMCA’s after school program that my daughter once ran.  She went across the street to say hello.  Soon after that my daughter arrived.  Suddenly, we had extra hands to help us.  The neighbor brought his tools, screws and his son over and they proceeded to help us with the fence.  A great time was had by all and the work went quite fast.  We really enjoyed ourselves.

While I was putting on fence boards on the east side of the fence I noticed another neighbor breaking out his bar-b-que grill and setting a large table outside for friends and family who were soon arriving.  I found myself thinking about the fence in a different way.  Suddenly, I realized that I had not just changed the lives of these two ladies, but I had brought one neighbor into the project and provided safety and peace of mind for the other neighbor so he could enjoy his yard to the fullest.  The ripples were spreading out.

With one and a half sections left to do before being finished, my husband left for a meeting.  He took my car and left us the pickup because we still had bout 30 boards to load and bring back to finish completely.  My daughter suggested that her and my grand daughters could finish up.  The neighbor from across the street volunteered to help them complete it.  I went home in my daughter’s car while they followed with the truck.

When my daughter and grand daughters returned they filled me in on the details.  After the fence was done the dogs were let out into the yard.  They were happy and content in their new, and safe  surroundings.  The two ladies were so happy they cried.  The neighbor to the east was having a wonderful time and was even able to utilize the back field for foot ball and other such  picnic activities, all without the dogs interfering.

My daughter and grand daughters were invited to have dinner across the street. And, if  he needs a baby sitter in the future, he will definitely call my youngest grand daughter to babysit.  My daughter told me of the peace that had settled over the area…not just for the two ladies, but for the entire neighborhood.  And, now that the fence was being utilized, they would be able to have visitors without the dogs causing visitors to not want to come over.

I also realized that this one small service project has touched the lives of those who drive the street, the mail person who delivers the mail, and I know it has touched the lives of our family.  I did not realize that the ripples would extend so far out from the focus, which was helping these two ladies have a better quality of life. It was a small investment in time and money for us  with a result  that will SERVE many for a long time.

And isn’t that what service is all about?  Not serving our own needs, but the needs of those who need our help. And the goal, to figure out what those needs are and then take care of them.  I was lucky.  I got to see the result in triplicate.  Most of us have no idea how we have touched or changed lives.  We do one kindness and we have no way of knowing how many lives changed because of that one kindness.

I remember seeing the movie, “Pay it Forward”.  Isn’t that what we are doing when we help others?  Who knows, we may be the catalyst that changes the entire world.  Think about it…it starts with just one kindness.

Chris

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~ by womenstudycenter on March 20, 2009.

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