This week I’m revisiting my buddy, Ronnie, and his big sister Doris, who cares for him at home. We collaborated to publish two columns about a year ago titled, “Living and Dying the Choices I’ve Made” and “Something just told me”.
Ronnie is forty-nine years old and was admitted to hospice for end stage cirrhosis of the liver. Ronnie spends most of his time in his “man cave” behind the main house. His man cave is a renovated shed which barely has the bare necessities, which doesn’t include a bathroom. Ronnie stated, “People come in here and tell me they don’t see how I live like this but I tell them, I have everything I need.” And Ronnie and I concur, “After all, a man needs his space”.
I have to admit that sometimes I’m confounded by Ronnie and Doris’ contentment. Their home is modestly constructed and furnished, they heat with wood and they barely make ends meet. And Doris has been shouldering heavy responsibility for several years. She moved from Maryland to Waverly, Ohio to care for their mother about fifteen years ago. When her mother passed away Doris stayed on to care for her elderly developmentally handicapped brother and sister, Frank and Shirley. She stated, “Somebody had to”. And now Doris is “looking after” Ronnie. Yet, in the years I’ve been visiting them as a hospice Social Worker, I’ve never heard them murmur or utter one complaint. Instead they claim, “We have everything we need and we’re thankful for what we’ve got”. They’re an inspiration to me and I’m honored and privileged to know them.
I visited Ronnie and Doris on the Monday before Thanksgiving and Doris commented about how, “People skip right over Thanksgiving anymore. They already have Christmas decorations up in all the stores and people are already looking forward to Black Friday so they can go shopping. We used to never think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving used to be as big a deal as Christmas. My mom always taught us to be thankful. We didn’t have much but we were thankful for what we had. It’s sad how people skip right over Thanksgiving. You should write a column about it”.
I told Doris that her comments reminded me of what another patient, George, shared. It was a beautiful summer day and George and I were sitting in his lawn swing when George said, “Do you know what frustrates me? People don’t appreciate things anymore. People are like hogs. An acorn can fall from a tree, hit it on the head, fall to the ground, and a hog will gobble it up without ever looking up to see where it came from.”
I asked Doris where and why she thought our culture started losing the spirit of Thanksgiving. Doris thought for a couple minutes and replied, “I think it started when they started moving Christmas ahead until it’s taken over Thanksgiving. And Christmas isn’t even about Jesus anymore. It’s all about money; about how much the stores can sell. It’s about what we can buy and what we might get. You might say that we’ve lost Thanksgiving to greed. And we might even lose the real Christmas one of these days.” We talked about how greed has stolen Thanksgiving just like “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”. Ronnie commented, “And do you know what can kill you faster than a bullet? Greed! It will kick you right in the butt!”
Doris is right isn’t she, “It’s sad how we skip right over Thanksgiving”. Don’t you feel it? Somewhere along the way we’ve lost our spirit of thanksgiving. But how do we recover it. Again I asked Doris for her thoughts and she replied, “I’m only one person but mom always told us, ‘You need to sweep up around your own back door first, before you start sweeping up around someone else’s.’ And when you do that you usually find that you don’t have any time left to deal with anybody else’s anyway. And another thing mom always told us was, ‘If the shoe fits wear it.’”
So why don’t we start by sweeping up around our own back door. Let’s turn around, look back and look up to see and acknowledge where our blessings come from.
“Praise the Lord!
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good!
For His mercy endures forever
Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?
Who can declare all his praise?”(Psalm 106: 1-2
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525
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