We often hear the phrase pay it forward. You do something good for someone, usually a stranger, as part of a chain of positive action. You pay forward because you often can’t pay back the particular person who did you a good deed. I recently have had an experience which allowed me to pay it backwards. I was able to return a favor to a friend who was very good to me when I was in college. She took me in when I had nowhere to go. She gave me food when I was hungry. I was a bit of a wild-child (for a minute), unfocused and reacted to life rather than planned anything (like the fact that money would run out if it wasn’t replenished and/or saved for a rainy day).
After college, our lives took different directions. I had children and got married. She was single and child-free. I lived the city life, she lived the suburban dream. Contact was spotty over the ensuing years. Some years there was no contact at all. Life happens.
Recently, I received an email informing her network of friends and colleagues that Carol was in need. Her father, with whom she lives, had a rapid decline in physical health and mental acuity since the New Year. (She’s a single child and her mother passed a few years back.) Determined to keep him at home, she needs help and relief for the hours when the home health aide is not there.
Thanks to modern technology, a cadre of friends, church members, colleagues, etc., have formed a community of care, using the website Lotsa Helping Hands.
As the website explains:
We created Lotsa Helping Hands to answer the question what can I do to help?
It is a free, private, web-based community that allows the coordination of activities and management of volunteers with a group calendar.
I am delighted to be able to be part of the love that surrounds my friend in her time of me as she helped me so very long ago when we were young.
As happens over time, we have reconnected and circled back into each others’ orbs. This connection provides a preview of what lies ahead for each of us if we live long enough. I hope that we each have the love, time and hands of others to help us in our time of need.
It is prudent to plan for the community you will have when you get older and/or have a serious illness. Some years back, before my second marriage, I planned with a few friends to set up a combined household a la the type shown on the Golden Girls television show. (If I remember correctly, they met each other while responding to Blanche’s ad for roommates and quickly formed a sisterhood/family bond.) The need for community in sickness and to remain healthy has been driven home to me In my work planning and attending arts events for seniors through the program Door2Door for the Arts. The participants in these events talk about how having transportation to go to events makes them feel connected to meaningful and enjoyable activities and helps them meet friends.
The Dreaded Decision: Putting a Parent in a Nursing Home by Evelyn Snow of Snowballsandwich
Just the thought of putting my dad in a nursing home made me feel guilt and anguish. He and my mom took care of me for 20 years until I moved out of their house. They put me through college, helped pay for my wedding, and were wonderful grandparents to my two kids. I owed it to my dad to at least try to take care of him rather than just sending him to a nursing home, right? But the fact is, taking care of an elderly adult is much different from caring for a child.
A BlogHer.com correspondent, Heather Clisby, posted a piece on Co-housing - Co-housing Communities: A Life Shared. While she is young, the co-housing concept is perfect for people throughout the life span.
Co-housing is an organized, collaborative community that shares weekly meals, chores and other life activities, such as child-rearing; it is a neighborhood with a consciousness connection.
The co-housing idea originated in Denmark, around 1964, and there are now hundreds of co-housing communities worldwide…Since then, the concept has taken off. At last count, 35 states contain at least one co-housing community within their borders. The top five states for co-housing are: California (52), Washington (21), Massachusetts (18), Colorado (16) and Texas (12).
A fan wrote in today to tell us how in her neighborhood they have an online community board that connects neighbors in need. It got us to thinking. Everyone we know is on Facebook. (It’s true, even our 88 year old aunt is a stalker.) What if you were to get together a few neighbors and set up a neighborhood group or page and called it, ”The 800 Block on Orange Street in Jackson Township”. Let your neighbors know that it exists (just tell the biggest busy body on the street — we’re sure the word will spread).
The Real Social Network by Martha Thomas in AARP The Magazine shares information and resources about the village concept that is gathering steam across the country. It is created as a result of naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCS) as well as in multigenerational neighborhoods. A national organization, the Village to Village Network (VtV), helps people who want to organize this model in their locality.
The founders of one of the oldest village models in the US, Beacon Hill Village in Boston, have written a book: The Village Concept: A Founders’ Manual.
To end, I recommend this useful/inspiring/uplifting and all-around great handbook that I read cover-to-cover when it first came out and refer to often: Creating Community Anywhere: Finding Support and Connection in a Fragmented World by Carolyn R. Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen, 2005 CCC Press.
Good and plenty!
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