This story is my gift to all my readers. Those with Dementia, those caring for someone with memory loss and to all those advocating for change in our Dementia care culture.
The Best Gift of All!
It is funny how over time our perceptions can change. I used to love the holidays, especially Christmas. I don’t know about you, but for me over the years my attitude and expectations for it has continued to change. When young, I have to admit it was all about seeing Santa and wishing for things… toys and clothes. As I become a young adult, I stilled loved getting gifts and loved planning how I would spend my gift cards or drop hints as to what exactly I wanted to my parents. In addition, I did look forward to the gatherings with family and friends to celebrate life.
Now that I’m in my fifties, things have really changed for me. Personally, I don’t think it has had anything to do with my age, but is more about the journey I have traveled in my own life. A path which has taught me many lessons some joyful, some painful. At this stage in life I now put little value on material things. I no longer have a need to receive gifts. Many around me are disappointed that I no longer feel the need to give gifts either. It’s even hard some days for me as I feel like people look at me like the Grinch. Funny thing is this change in me has nothing with trying to ruin a holiday which is what most think the Grinch’s intention was. Now I won’t even attempt to analyze why the Grinch did what he did, but I will try to explain how I arrived here.
You see my goal is to shift the holiday season back to what I believe was the initial intent. To celebrate life and all we have before us now, with gratitude. I truly don’t believe the holiday spirit is supposed to be about focusing on what we physical have in terms of “stuff”. I also believe in leading by example. In this instance it’s not an easy barrier to break down. “What about the children? How will they feel? What will they do with no gifts or less gifts?” are all common comments I get.
First, I want the children to value and appreciate family, friends and the roof over their head.
Second, I want them to be grateful for what they do have right now. I want them to understand that no matter how much “stuff” they have in this world, it will never be enough. It won’t because that is what we teach people. They will never win the battle of “having enough stuff” to make them happy.
Third, this is a great opportunity to not only teach our children, but adults this basic lesson. One which most of us logically understand, but very few live by.
So what’s my problem?
My problem or one of them has been a life changing event, my Mother’s Dementia. Her issues with memory loss over a thirty year period has taught me to appreciate the moments I have with those special to me. To let go of judgment, control and “stuff” that I used to value. My life has become so filled with a richness that “things” can’t buy. Material stuff can’t fill your heart in the long run. It may make you happy for a short period of time, but rarely is it life lasting.
So for me, my treasure chest of gratitude is by far the best gift of all. You see no one can take it from you. You can’t lose it or wear it down as it lives within you. In fact, gratitude reconnects you. It grounds you and energizes you like no “Red Bull” can.
Gratitude gives you multiple gifts back, like those of appreciation and love. It gives you a calmness and peacefulness within you which can’t even be captured in words. It doesn’t damage your ego, your pocket book or your credit rating. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. The one that is PRICELESS!
Ironically, this morning I was talking with a friend of mine Dorothy, and she shared with me a simple story of gratitude. I know I don’t have all of the details right, but you will get the point. Here is my embellished version:
A man owned a coffee shop and was having a tough time in the economy. His demeanor was usually crabby. Every day an elderly woman would come into his store. Every day he would see her writing on a napkin and tuck it into her pocket. One day the owner finally asked her what she was doing. She told the man, she would sip her coffee and write down three things she was grateful for before starting off on her day. The man looked at her funny and asked, “Why?”
The old woman said she didn’t want to miss out on her wonderful life by focusing on the negative things. She told him she kept all of her napkins and would read through them when she was having a down day. She told him, they lifted her spirits and she soon realized she always had something to be grateful for. She learned even in difficult times there were lessons she learned that made her life easier in the years to come. Over the next few months the man continued to watch the old woman and she continued to watch him struggle with his business.
One day as the old woman was getting ready to leave; she approached the man and slipped into his hand a napkin. As she walked out the door, the man looked at the napkin. On it was written, I am grateful for: 1) this wonderful coffee shop 2) the amazing aromas here, and 3) the calm cheerful chatter of those that gather here.
The man smiled and proceeded to grab a napkin and write down three things he was grateful for. He continued doing this for the next few weeks. Then one day, he noticed the old woman had not been in for the past few days. He wondered what happened to her. A few days later a large box arrived at the coffee shop. In that box, were all of the old woman’s napkins. The man decided to take her comments and share them with his customers. So for each person he would write a new napkin sharing the old woman’s thoughts. He noticed immediately the change in his customers or was it the change in him….? It didn’t’ matter as both where positive. He also noticed his business picking up. People were sharing their gratitude napkins with friends and colleagues and the place was packed.
UPDATE from the original posting
My friend Dorothy just emailed me the specifics of the original Coffee shop story of gratitude, as I stated my was embellished and I did not know the origin. It seemed so timely as I was writing this article on gratitude as Dorothy and were talking. I’m a firm believer things don’t just happen, but rather happen for a reason. Linda McLean, the original author has a powerful message that people need to hear. I would recommend checking out the her book as it looks great! Click on the book to order Linda McLean My Gratitude Journal
It’s funny how each of us has the ability to change others with little burden or cost through our thoughts and gestures. Yes, gratitude is by far the best gift one can give to others and themselves.
I invite you to join me in starting a gratitude journal. Through my journey with my moms memory loss and my fathers brain cancer it has been a life saver for me. You can write on anything: an actual journal, on your computer or phone, or even on a napkin at your favorite stomping grounds like the old woman in the story.
My Gift To You This Holiday Season
And All Year Long Is One Of Gratitude
May You Always See The Blessing
In Your Life!
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