In a church service recently, we were given a challenge. Each person was instructed to write down a short, individual, life motto on the spur of the moment. The task was simple, but overwhelming. Without warning we were asked to put into words an important guide to living our lives. Our speaker went on to say that the motto should be one that makes each of us a better person, who will be of more use in our own small corner of the world!
There was a simultaneous gasp from the congregation. Someone called out, “I can’t do that. I have no paper or pen.”
“Look around,” came the answer. “See the tables scattered at the front and sides? Go there and you will find all you need.”
I joined the bemused group investigating what the tables held, and returned to my seat to search for what to write. The lovely coloured card (thankfully small!) remained empty for some time. I guess we all recognized that the question was a serious one, even if the presentation of it was surprising. Silence fell over the hall, as people thought and wrote.
One by one we dropped our cards in the basket and walked to where our after-church coffee was served. That day most of the conversations started with, “How did you answer that question?”
I have little idea of the topics my fellow church members chose, but I am sure there would be a great variety. Our church has a great diversity of everything, age groups included. As a person well launched into my 90s, I thought of no dramatic project that was realistic for me. I wondered if my words would apply to my everyday life in my pleasant seniors’ residence. Would they make any difference?
And what were the words I came up with? They lead the way into this essay.
Listen, Understand, Act.
No matter how old I grow, how good or difficult my niche is, I crave someone to listen to my stories, to understand me without criticism, and to act on my behalf if necessary. Admittedly my greatest challenge is to first remember to listen to what my friend is saying, with the goal of understanding the hidden message behind the words. There will be time later to tell her my stories. The least-used word is act. It is mainly covered by encouraging people to make use of the many caring professionals on staff. They are more than willing to help us.
The last thing suggested to us was to make a card with our chosen words on it, and to put it in a place where we would see it every day, like the mirror in our bathroom. Speaking again as one of the over-90 group, that seems like a good idea. Things drift away from my failing memory like seaweed on a receding tide. Despite that, I know a good thing when I see it. Making an effort to change things for the better, even a little bit, is worth trying, “You in your small corner, and I in mine.”