Thursday, February 23, 2012

LOFT LIFE: And seldom was heard, a discouraging word....

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about life, and how as mine heads toward what we laughingly refer to as the “golden years,” the desire to make sure I’m going to leave a legacy and make a difference presents itself.
It’s not that I have more time on my hands--I do. But, days go quickly, weeks speed by, and the realization is that the time is short to really chalk up the “good works” I wish to do, and often forget to do in my daily hum-drums.
I don’t mean fulfilling some checklist of do’s. I mean feeling good about the end times, which by the way are also on the sooner than later, schedule. It just stands to reason. If the world will end, we are closer to that than we were. And, at the least, my own life is drawing closer to the end time.
So how do I make that difference?
For me it comes down to encouragement. Do you remember the words to “Home on the range?”
“Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play, where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day...”
Ah, clouds, I’ve looked at, no, that’s another time and place. 
The skies are not cloudy? All day? Have you read the newspaper lately--or looked at the news on television or online, where seldom is heard an encouraging word and the skies are not only cloudy all day, every day, they’re usually more like stormy, as far as the outlook for prosperity and the American Dream look!
So, maybe I won’t amass enough in the IRA to live comfortably. Maybe I won’t even own a house, travel the world, or enjoy a lot of restaurant food. The truth is, I’ve been living very comfortably, so far, I’ve owned two houses, and travelled enough to feel I have had some of that dream realized. As for restaurant food: I was a food critic in California, and they paid me to eat at a different place at least once a week. Then, moving to Connecticut our company paid for us to live in the hotel for 17 months, and also, for most of that time, paid for our meals, because all of our stuff was still in Illinois then. And, I can tell you that eating in restaurants two meals a day for more than a year got old. I still enjoy a great meal at a great eatery, but I will not feel deprived in the least if I don’t get to continue that habit on a regular basis.
But, even if I have not satiated my own desires in these areas, what I find gives me the most fulfillment, even joy, is bringing encouragement to those who are discouraged. We have plenty of discouraging words. Let's take that as a challenge to change the balance with our own efforts to encourage.
I remember telling one of my friends who was discouraged, that it is impossible to be thankful and upset at the same time. She took that to heart, began counting her many blessings, and felt much better. I like giving out hugs now, especially to people I know don’t get a lot of ‘em. And, I like looking for ways to let people know I appreciate them.
In my college days, my friend Nancy greeted me at her door, usually weekly: “Oh, Marjorie! Hello. Come in.” You would have thought I was her long, lost friend she hadn’t seen in years. I felt so wanted, so loved, so appreciated.
These may seem like such simple acts of kindness. And, that’s the point. They are simple, easy to do, and in the process of encouraging others, I feel a lot better myself.
So how about singing yourself a few bars of the old western tune and letting it remind you that the discouraging words you tune into every day in the media can also be tuned out. 
Let’s make a point of tuning in, instead, to our friends, family, acquaintances, people who serve us, even, strangers. Like today, I asked a woman in the checkout line at the store to read a label for me since I forgot my readers. She was delighted to help. I thanked her profusely, and I saw a smile. So easy. I needed something; she felt needed. 
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re talking to someone on the phone, sending an email, remembering to send a card of sympathy or congratulations, or even, thinking of you, or seeing someone in person and greeting them with enthusiasm. They all may just add up to your leaving yourself a wake of goodness and kindness. It makes a difference.