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I saw on Facebook today, the statement “I have already decided that 2020 is going to be ridiculously amazing!” I LOVED this statement. It made me smile and also gave me the inspiration for this blog. Thanks Natalie, you continue to be an inspiration! What a GREAT proclamation. Traditionally many people resolve to start something new, turn over a new leaf, or complete a task they have been putting off for some time, effective January 1st, of each New Year. The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. They made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions (History.com). Personally I make daily goals for myself, and bigger goals to aim for throughout each year, rather than to wait for one set date as a reason to “start”. Why “put off” focusing on that “thing” that you wish to begin or accomplish? On a recent airline trip, I had the privilege of setting next to this amazing woman who lost her husband of 40 years a couple months back who spent the entire flight sharing all the things that she wished she “would have done” while he was still alive. The trips, the adventures, the special times that they were hoping to share “some day”, that now will never have the chance to come to fruition. She told me “she wished that she could have the attention of the people in this country, and every country for that matter, to tell them to live their lives now, and not put things off as today is a for sure thing and tomorrow is not.” Someone once said the following to me that I’d like to share with you… “May your worst day in 2020 be no less than your BEST day in 2019”

You are the Gift

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With the holiday season in full force, many people are running around trying to find that “perfect” gift, last minute gift or an item on their children’s wish list.  For many years, my children and I have not exchanged gifts, but rather we donate what we would have spent on purchases to charities such as Operation Smile and Giving Tree projects.  We enjoy the time together playing games, cooking, watching movies and simply sharing the time.  Like most, I usually give to my service providers; i.e. the mailman, UPS/Fedex drivers and hairdresser.  When I arrived at my hair appointment, I realized I had inadvertently left my stylists gift at my home.  I shared with her, that I had forgotten her gift and I would bring it the next time I came, and she replied with the words “YOU are the Gift.”  Besides being an extremely thoughtful thing to hear, I also found the words very meaningful, especially at this time of year.  At school, a fellow staff member put a key in everyone’s mailbox with a note that read “YOU are the key to our students’ success.”  Again, a simple yet profound gift.  However, you choose to celebrate, and whomever you spend the time with, you are wished the happiest of times. 

At this time of year, we frequently see the “bell ringers” in front of the store fronts, or the charities asking for donations for their causes.  I often feel guilty if I don’t donate, yet I can’t give to each charity that asks as my personal funds do not afford that.  The question then becomes, “which charity should I donate to?”  The concept of giving and not taking can be foreign to some, while being most familiar to others.  People can “give” in so many ways that are not monetary.  One of the best gifts can be that of time.  The holidays can be a very lonely time for those that do not have any family, especially when they see others celebrating with their loved ones.  While I understand that we are all busy with our jobs and lives, and even more so at this time of year, perhaps we can make an effort to seek out one person to share some time with that otherwise wouldn’t have anyone.  I recently saw a commercial that shows neighbors giving each other “gifts” on their doorsteps, anonymously, that spreads moments of joy.  I tried that concept out at my job last week.  I dropped off a simple treat on the desk of a few other teachers.  It warmed my heart to see their reactions.  The smiles and excitement that followed was worth the effort.  The concept quickly spread, and by weeks end several of the teachers had shared gifts and treats with each other.  JOY can come from even the simplest of gestures, not just at the holidays but all year long. 

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions.

Often I hear people say to each other “ Oh, I love you unconditionally”, yet the moment they do not love or appreciate what the person is doing, or the direction that they are going with their life, they start judging and NOT actually loving “unconditionally.”  I saw a quote recently on a website (your tango.com) “Actual love, as in unconditional love.  It doesn’t mean that you love everything about the person.  It means you don’t need them to be different than they are for you to be happy.” 

In our day to day lives, in our workplaces, with our family and client involvement, we seem to be able to interact with them lovingly with NO conditions.  If they have a disability, or an ailment, or a behavior, we continue to work with them, care about them and assist them in meeting their goals and having meaningful life experiences throughout the day.  When it comes to “friends” and family perhaps that isn’t always the case.  Seems sometimes that tolerance levels may be different in our personal lives versus our professional lives.  Perhaps that can be the goal for the upcoming months, to work on acceptance of a person/persons that we may have had an intolerance for in the past.  Recognizing that we are all individuals.  In the meantime, we have those special critters in our lives to remind us that for some, its truly just affection without any conditions…

As I sit and type this week’s blog, I am amazed at how quickly this year has seemed to have gone by.  There is just a little over 2 months until we start 2020.  Many people wait until the beginning of each year to set goals for themselves for the upcoming year.  Their “New Years Resolution” if you will.  I personally like to set goals for myself throughout the year, in fact frequently I set daily goals for myself, and often I adjust those goals as the day progresses.  Like many of you, I start out each day with the goal of “making at least one person happy.”  To make a positive change in the life of another.  As easy as that sounds, we may find it’s not as easy to accomplish on any given day, depending on the reaction, attitude and actions of others. We have been told “We cannot control the actions of others, but rather how we react to their actions,” however recently I saw a post on Facebook that put a somewhat different spin on that statement. “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening.  That’s where the power is.”  I encourage you to set this as your goal for the upcoming week, one that you can achieve with ease, that gives back the control to you!

Altruistic wisdom

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“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are honest, people, may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.  If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good.  Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway” (Mother Theresa of Calcutta) Truer words were never spoken.  So much energy is exhausted on negativity, isn’t it time to start BUILDING each other up?  Connecting with each other, supporting each other through words and actions would be so much more productive in our day to day lives.  A couple years ago my daughter and I were in the drive through of a local coffee shop, and this woman walked out of the bistro toward her car with her head down.  My daughter rolled down the window and said, “Excuse me, I just wanted to say what a beautiful smile you have.”  The woman looked up and smiled from ear to ear.  Just the simple gesture made her day.  Seriously, there is no shortage of people to criticize you throughout the day, lets try to be that ray of light to uplift each other which in turn may actual inspire ourselves in the process.

Recently an Activity Professionals posted the following on her Facebook page; “One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you are going through now, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.”  I thought about how this ties in with the theme for the 2020 VAAP Conference, “Ordinary Heroes.”  Often when we are going through something, perspective is hard to find, yet once we overcome it, then we can see things much more clearly and we can share the result with others to assist them in their journey.  This also coincides with the idea of having those that have been in the field for quite some time, the “seasoned” activity professionals if you will, to lend advice to those activity directors that are newer in the profession and could benefit from the advice and wisdom. Someone once told me to place the “issue” I might be having in the palm of my hand and stick my hand on the end of my nose.  No matter which way I turned my head, that “issue” was still right in front of me.  Then I was instructed to stretch out my arm in front of my body and then look around, and what do you know, things were much clearer.   The more we can share and network with each other, the stronger we become as a profession and as individuals.  My mother always said “there is strength in numbers,” I encourage you to become that guidance to another peer and see the difference you will make in both their personal and professional lives.

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting some truly dedicated individuals that work/worked in the activity profession.  This past week was no exception.  I presented/attended several district meetings in Virginia, and when the participants went around the table to introduce themselves, they also shared how long they had been in the field.  In one of the meetings there was over 500 years of experience in the room.  In many cases throughout the country the same selfless volunteers, serve as the board/committee members as well as work their full-time jobs.  While touring facilities in the different areas, one gal made me smile with this comment, “Oh my Goodness, I have only been in the field for 4 years, I can’t imagine being in this job 25 years from now, how do you do it, better yet, WHY?”  The seasoned activity professional I was with, responded to her without hesitation.  She shared with her that for those that have been around for numerous years, it is” Passion versus a Paycheck.”  Sure, while we need income to pay bills and such, nothing compares to the hands-on experiences that you can bring to your residents, and that they reciprocate so willingly back to you.   My hats off to those of you who are making a difference in the lives of your residents, who are laying the foundation for the next generation of activity professionals.  Thank you to those that paved the way for the current generation of activity professionals.  The contributions, wisdom  and sacrifices you made to elevate the profession to where it is, will forever be appreciated.

I recently saw a sign hanging in a diner in Birmingham, MI that read “If you are GROUCHY, IRRITABLE, or just PLAIN MEAN; there will be a $10.00 charge for putting up with you.”  It made me laugh right out loud.  As with most things, I analyzed this statement afterward and thought it was such a GREAT mindset, even though it was said in jest.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could all place something similar on our office walls?  Something that says, “Hey we all have bad days, suck it up butter cup?” Or, “Take your silly problems down the hall” and so forth.  I was consulting in a facility one time, when they were trying to resolve “conflict” among the employees.  The issue was between the maintenance guy and the nursing staff.  When asked, the maintenance man stated, “I really do not mind doing anything for anyone, it’s simply the attitude that goes with the request”.  He went on to discuss that most days the nursing staff didn’t even say hello before they would begin “barking orders” at him.  John do this, John do that, John why didn’t you do the thing we asked you to do yet? Etc.  All this gentleman wanted was a simple greeting, and a pleasant disposition from others at the beginning of each day.  Seems like a simple resolution, wouldn’t you agree?

Ordinary Heroes

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A HERO by definition is “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

A brave person, champion, courageous, victor, winner, conqueror, survivor, lionheart, warrior, knight, are all listed as synonyms for the word “hero”. These typically apply to war heroes, first responders and other such remarkable individuals who risk their lives to save others.

There are also “Ordinary Heroes.” To many, an Ordinary Hero is an individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. People that may have dealt with hate, racial slurs, cancer or other diseases, inequality, ageism and the list goes on and on.  People that mustered their own “inner hero”, are survivors.  A hero can be an ordinary person in regular clothes possessing no special super powers like Batman, Wonder Woman and so forth, yet that have the characteristics to prevail in a time of need for themselves or others.  We celebrate the HEROES!

Artwork by Kelly Bradshaw Hoyle