Mary Beth Ions won the $150 gift card for the 2020 Aging Gracefully Writing Contest!
Here are some of the other outstanding essays that were submitted for the writing contest! We are sorry that we just couldn’t publish all of them. Thank you to all writers for taking the time to write each and every one of them!
How Can You Make a Difference?
Written by Susan Poole, former Executive Director of Community Resource Services and currently makes a difference as the Development Officer at the Community Foundation of Lorain County. She is also a freelance writer.
I used to run a food pantry, which required managing a team of volunteers. One afternoon, a group of them were celebrating someone’s birthday. I went back and asked, “Do you mind telling me how old you are?” The birthday girl – let’s call her Pat – grinned from ear to ear. “Eighty-two!”
Wow. Not what I expected. She looked much younger.
Next I asked, “What’s your secret? Above and beyond staying active and eating well, how do you always appear so vibrant and upbeat?”
Pat smiled again. “I try to make a difference in someone else’s life, each and every day.” Here’s what Pat’s weekly schedule often looks like:
Monday…Volunteers packing groceries for local families who visit the food pantry.
Tuesday…Helps her neighbor with household chores, sometimes just sits with her and chats.
Wednesday…Volunteers at a hospital, something she’s done for over two decades—dating back to when they were still called Candy-Stripers.
Thursday…Picks her great-grandchildren up from school.
Friday…This day remains open but is always available to family and friends if they need her.
A milestone birthday hasn’t interfered with Pat’s commitment to making a difference. She considers this time of her life an opportunity to do the things she always wanted to do, but never had the time for when she was working or raising her family.
I’ve learned several valuable lessons from Pat and her fellow volunteers. Above and beyond their commitment to helping others, I admire them for discovering other ways to make the world a better place by:
Maintaining strong friendships. Pat and the other “Monday girls” have volunteered together for several years.
Finding their passion. They followed their hearts and came together with a shared interest in helping people in need.
Sharing joy and laughter. There’s no better medicine than that!
Even though I’m not close enough to retirement just yet, I’m already compiling a list of other ways I can be a difference maker—for those around me and also for myself. Start your own list today!
My Father’s Shoes
Written by Dale Storch
It starts with my father who worked long hours in a hot dirty factory to support his family. My father wanted me and my brothers to get an education and have a better life. So we did go to college and had professional jobs that didn’t require physical labor.
I watched my father go to work sick and fight through injuries to support us. As my father would say the biggest part of life is to show up and do your job. So starts my journey into a sport with grueling hours and pain in order to get better. I watched myself an educated man identify with my father’s blue-collar work ethic and go deep into a physically demanding sport. Through thousands of hours of training and many injuries I truly had a greater appreciation of my father’s life as a laborer.
Since my father’s passing 14 years ago I wear my father’s running shoes at every powerlifting meet. I spent 42 years at the gym the same amount of time my father worked at his job until he retired. Although I won a world championship I will never be considered a great champion. Like my father we were grinders in life and are only appreciated by our family.
So to sum this up, powerlifting has destroyed my knees, my shoulder, my pec, but has given me the opportunity to not only wear my father’s shoes, but to walk in them. As I go to the world powerlifting championships I am hurt, but like my father, I will show up and compete for the last time. I hope the shoes have a little magic left in them because my body has nothing left.
In loving memory of my Father, Frank Storch.
Easy Ways to Find Friendships that Combat Loneliness
Written by Denise McKee, PHR
Ever wondered why isolation is considered a harsh punishment? It’s because as people, we are wired to be social and surrounded by others. But as we grow older, isolation becomes a challenge. Children are busy with their lives. Family move away. Spouses become ill and pass away.
Statistics show that those that are alone suffer more from depression, undertake poor life choices such as inactivity or smoking and have a shorter life expectancy.
So, loneliness as we grow older should be combated. And it can be.
Friendships – it’s the best remedy for isolation. Friendship offers support, companionship and relieves stress. And it’s easier than opening a can of tuna.
The key is to get out there…
Join a club – Here you can combine socialization with a common interest. Clubs can be found:
- Online – such as MeetUp, Active, Nextdoor, and Meet the Neighbors
- Social media – such as Facebook/Instagram or the combination of the two, InstaMeets from your local town
Sign up for a program – You can learn something and exercise the mind all the while getting to know a diverse group of people. Programs are found:
- Libraries – host sewing groups, book clubs and writing groups
- Colleges- have classes that range from art to cooking to learning a new language
- Religious institutions – have support groups and studies
Volunteer – this is an ideal way to not only meet new people but to also give back to the community. Can always volunteer at:
- Hospitals and nursing homes – Can visit patience that are alone
- Metro Parks – Nothing better than being out in nature
- Shelters – Can comfort animals or help feed the homeless
Whatever strikes your interest, get out there. Just imagine making lunch plans with someone you just met. Over the great meal, you talk and laugh about the new stitch you haven’t quite mastered that was taught at the library program or the kid that kept petting the snake at the Metro Park summer camp you volunteered at last week.
Volunteering for Hospice
Written by Joanie Kleinhenz Shackleton
DISCOVERING A WAY TO GIVE BACK. I discovered an opportunity to volunteer when my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. We hired hospice to come into the home and care for her, and were impressed with how much of a difference they made in my mom’s final months/days.
TRAINING REQUIRED. Because I was not a trained medical professional, I took an extensive training course and became a hospice volunteer, where I traveled to homes, nursing homes, and hospice facilities to bring emotional comfort to patients. I talked with them, read to them, played music, prayed with them, or just sat with them.
VIGILING. I also experienced opportunities to sit with dying patients until they took their last breath. One time, I was asked to vigil for a man living in a nursing home with only hours to live. It was Ash Wednesday, and I noticed that the patient had ashes on his forehead. Although he was in a coma and unable to talk, I told him (I have always believed they can hear you even though they can’t communicate) that I also was going to get ashes, and that I was trying to figure out what I could “give up” for Lent. I told him that I LOVED popcorn – so much so that I didn’t think I could give it up for 40 whole days.
TRAITS NECESSARY FOR HOSPICE VOLUNTEERING. Shortly after this one-sided conversation, the patient passed away and I completed my paperwork and rushed to the church where my husband was waiting for me. He asked me how my patient was, and I said, “Well, I told him I was thinking of giving popcorn up for Lent, and he died!”
I find that having a sense of humor helps when dealing with terminally ill patients. It is not easy to show kindness, sympathy and compassion without becoming emotionally involved; however, I have seen how it helps everyone involved – the dying patient, the family members, and the community as a whole.
Forget Me Not
Written by Glenn Blair, a former Standard Oil executive and Baldwin-Wallace professor, returned to Westlake after his wife’s death. Until his early 80s, he had been a Senior Olympics athlete and professional model. He still plays trombone in the Baldwin-Wallace New Horizons Band.
When the Pain of Loss Eventual Subsides, Then What?
The period after a life-changing loss is heartbreaking and chaotic whether it be a death, divorce, illness, loss of a job or any one of a number of life’s setbacks. As friends we want to be helpful and soften the pain. Our well-meaning condolences and expressions of sympathy along with the brutal mechanics of dealing with the loss can be overwhelming and fill the days with frantic, distracting activity. But when all that eventually subsides, inevitably a time of emptiness and loneliness begins that may never entirely go away.
Plan a Later Contact
My wife responded to that emptiness in an extraordinary manner. After she wrote the initial note of sympathy, she marked her calendar for a month later. A time of quiet and most likely loneliness for her friend. My wife would call. Always a phone call. A chance to share thoughts, hear emotion in the voice, and explore subjects that are just too difficult to write about. She was the voice of a caring friend long after the required formal expressions of concern. And, then, she would do another reminder for a month later. As time went by the period lengthen, but there was always a reminder, no matter how distant, to call.
“Please Don’t Forget”
A London friend died too early a number of years ago. His wife wrote to tell us of his passing and ended her letter with, “Please don’t forget John”. Those words broke my heart then. They still do. I will never forget John. And I write yearly to assure her that I haven’t.
When my wife died, I was amazed and moved by the number of condolences that mentioned her practice of extending concern and kindness well beyond the initial time of heartbreak.
I am so proud of her. It gives me great comfort to know of the many who will never forget my wife… because she never forgot them.
Making New Friends in the Niche of Time
Written by J.K. Marlin, Blogwright, (lazarus-ink.blog). J.K. Marlin is a retired church educator and playwright. She and her husband currently live in Avon Lake, Ohio. They have an adult daughter who is a pastor in Illinois.
Born into the Narrow Niche of Nerd
Hatched as I was into a nest of musicians, artists, writers, preachers, you know the types, I’ve been drawn to friendships with nerds. Oh, I love all varieties of people, but my deepest friendships are with those who stare at a dream over their coffee, then that thought they didn’t speak becomes a poem or a song, a twinkle of humor or a window as their creative instant spreads.
Age Beckons New Friendships
Oldness finds us with so many hours for friends, but those of us with a lifetime in a narrow niche discover many friendships are either gone or born again too young.
Blogging Connects to Like Minds Worldwide
For me, I created a fictional character who is an eternal history wanderer. I write his 2000 year journal as a blog. It calls me to my comfortable nerd behavior: hours of research, writing and arting to produce three short posts each week as a continued story. The blog hosting company files it with “long reads.” My followers are few, some local friends dutifully keeping in touch with the wacky creative lady; but now I’m rich with others of these strangely like-minded soul mates, traveling the same creative energy path. It’s that comfortable narrow niche that once drew me to the school cafeteria nerd’s table where the poets are the last to leave. Now the creative dialogue flows freely from real people in places like Aberdeen, London, San Francisco, and recently a British traveler in Rome.
I recommend blogging and this was the good advice I got when I started:
- Take a few months to read lots of blogs.
- Keep it to 400 words or less per post.
- Use visual images.
- Follow the “Help” tools before hiring a technician.
- Choose a topic and stick with it.
- Add targeted #tags that draw in the intended readers.
- Write a creative piece several months ahead in order to put the work aside to “ferment.” This allows a fresh look later for edits without deadline pressure.
On Eagles’ Wings
Written by Elaine Mathews
Mom was humble in every way. A full-time working mom downtown, never drove a car, raised a family, and caretaker of my dad for whom they were married for a little more than sixty-five years. During mom’s younger years, she lovingly collected a small number of ceramic birds which she enjoyed displaying in her curio cabinet.
Sadly dad passed away in a long term nursing facility before mom.
I was thankfully able to visit mom on a daily basis during her long term care in a nursing facility. I missed her so much that I dreamed of winning the lottery to get mom home! She was always there for me during my own battles. I could see the frustration and worry in her expression of being so helpless and not being able to help me. I know she missed dad so very much.
Three days after mom’s passing away during the cold month of January, I happened to pull into my driveway to make a phone call. I was constantly worrying about how I would cope in the next couple of days to prepare for her burial.
There is a huge tree next to where I pulled in. All of a sudden, I witnessed two beautiful blue jays which reminded me of mom and dad. Then there was a huge flock of birds who were so uplifting and chirping away in the bright sun. I saw several cardinals, and even a number of woodpeckers in the mix. Then I saw a large beautiful woodpecker on the tree pecking away and showing off its beauty. I could not take my eyes off of this amazing show. I thought, “What in the world is going on here?” I have never seen anything like this so close up. “Oh my gosh, this is a sign from Jesus letting me know of mom resting in peace. Mom and dad are together again.”
The heavy load was lifted from my shoulders so that I could calmly prepare for mom’s final resting service. Praise be to Jesus!
Functional Illiteracy In Adults
Written by Linda Nagy, a 71 yr. old retired elementary school teacher. Although I am advocating Project: Learn, I am not employed by them but I have done volunteer work with them.
If you can read this, be grateful. Many adults actually cannot. More than 30 million adults in the USA are functionally illiterate. This means that their reading, writing, and basic math skills are inadequate for them to hold a job or perform tasks involved in daily living.
Imagine what your life would be like if you could not effectively read a menu, recipe, or simple put-it-together directions. There are adults whose reading skills are too immature for them to fill out a job application, fill out a form at a doctor’s office, or accurately read road signs.
According to the Literacy Foundation, illiteracy in adults is most commonly the result of having grown up in a home where the adults were poorly educated, or there was a lack of books or other reading material in the home, insufficient reading stimulation as a child, poverty, learning disabilities that were not effectively dealt with, dropping out of school;, and difficult living conditions.
It has been said that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Wouldn’t you like to be part of the solution and make a positive difference in the world? You can do that. You can share the gift of literacy that so many of us take for granted. There is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that would hook you up with a less fortunate adult so that you could share your literacy skills, one on one. Project: Learn is always looking for volunteers. They will provide the necessary training and supplies. You can inquire and volunteer at the Cleveland office — 216 621-9483.
Please think about it.