Aging Well

Aging Well

Cultivating a generous spirit

Posted December 21, 2020 4:53 p.m. EST
Updated December 31, 2020 5:17 p.m. EST

This is the 12th years Keller has taken gifts to seniors living at the Murphey School Apartments.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot to be grateful for as we head into the holidays with two COVID vaccines now available in the US as of today. An estimated 175,000 doses will arrive in NC from Moderna this week and a second batch of vaccines (61,000) from Pfizer are being delivered, too.

There is finally some soft light visible at the end of what has been a very, very long tunnel. Finally, many think, we can better protect our most vulnerable health care workers and seniors—at least physically.

But what about their mental health? Already before the pandemic, public health experts identified the loneliness epidemic as the number one public health crisis today among the elderly. The pandemic has only been exacerbated the situation.

This is not something that can be tackled with policy or money, though that can certainly help. It is best tackled by individuals, like Amanda Grace Keller, or small groups, like churches, who bring a generous heart

On Saturday, Keller and Siler Ransmeier carried gift bags to 48 seniors living in subsidized housing at the Murphey School Apartments and another 48 seniors living at Meadow Creek Commons.

This was the twelfth year since Keller first started this program after hearing that there were residents at Murphey School who had not had a visitor for over five years. Keller, a massage therapist, knows intimately how loneliness is stored in the body. She also knows the value that even one person can have on another person’s life.

While Keller usually provides two large shopping bags, holding from 50 to 70 items, to each resident, this year she had to postpone this larger effort to April, when hopefully, she can gather donations and more safely involve her team of volunteers.

That said, Keller and Ransmeier knew how much the residents looked forward to this holiday visit. They purchased and put together small gift bags, which they hand-delivered, wearing masks and distancing.

Keller, like many small business owners, had struggled when her business was closed due to COVID for many months, but when I asked her how she was weathering the situation, she said, “A lot of people are struggling. I just know how happy it makes me feel to visit my friends at the Murphey School.”

Counterintuitive as it would seem to be generous at a moment when you, yourself, are struggling to meet basic needs, both research and many religions promote this as an effective way to get out of your head.

It's the week of Christmas and while it will be quieter and different from Christmases past for many, perhaps there will also be more space for simple acts of generosity. From fixing a dinner plate for a homebound senior to offering to do a grocery run for them, from making a surprise phone call to an older friend to sticking a thoughtful note in the mail to an older relative, these are the ways one cultivates a generous spirit. In this trying year, many have come to understand that there is nothing more valuable than that.

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