Monday, September 12, 2016

Feel good by doing good-- even in a minor key.

Think about ways to create small amounts of joy-- to yourself and others. In fact, the best way to create joy is to give it away!

For example, I witnessed this phenomenon today when I delivered Meals on Wheels in my neighborhood in Indianapolis. This activity allows me to meet a lot of elderly people, most of whom are homebound. Most of my grandparents and elderly relatives died in their sixties, so I never really have known old people close up. Delivering the meals gives me a chance to interact with some kind of routine basis. Sometimes it's depressing. Some clients are in pain or fatigued, and they give the impression that there's no joy in their lives, far from it. As I said, I'm not experienced with older people, and I find myself thinking, "I can't blame them. There's a point when there's no joy left to find."
Well, that depresses me too, especially when I look forward to the future! Is that what I have ahead? Infirmity and apathy?

But then I'll deliver a meal to someone like Mr. Wilbert, and he reminds me that there's always some joy left, even if you have to make it yourself. 

Mr. Wilbert is over 80 and in a wheelchair, and only gets out when his aide comes to take him to the doctor. Even on the prettiest days of the year, which today definitely was, he can barely get out onto the porch, much less out into the sunshine.

But he doesn't let that keep him from creating joy. I noticed today as I came up his walk that he was out on the porch. He was bending down in his wheelchair, but looked up guiltily when I approached. He shrugged and sat back, and I could see what he'd been doing. He was putting out little cups of food and milk for the feral cats who live in the neighborhood. 

As I watched, a whole family of pretty little grey kittens and their mom sidled up. Mr. Wilbert turned his wheelchair and went back into the house, calling back over his shoulder, "You better drop my meal off and get back in your car. They won't come up on the porch if they see us here."

And in fact, as I retreated to my car, I looked back to see the mother cat leading her kittens up onto the porch, and one by one to eat, they bent delicately to each what Mr. Wilbert had left for them. He sat in the doorway and watched them. He knows that feral cats won't let him come out and pet them of course. But he doesn't mind, because he can watch through his screen door, taking such pleasure in his kindness.

So here is a man who is poor enough to need subsidize meals, and  infirm enough to be wheelchair-bound, and confined to his home. And yet he has learned that doing good for helpless creatures makes him feel good, and he also knows enough to get job just from watching them eat and accepting their fear of humans without taking  offense.

If a man in his situation can get pleasure out of doing good, so can we all.

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