39. Cheerful Change

39. Cheerful Change

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Cheerful Change

Cheerfulness is what greases the axles of the world. Don’t go through life creaking.

~H.W. Byles

While participating in my church’s Hearts of Love nursing home outreach, I spent precious time with a wheelchair-bound woman named Louise. From the moment I saw her, I couldn’t help but notice her cheerful countenance. It was inviting, friendly, and captivating. When she spotted my bright blue outreach shirt, she wheeled herself toward my side and introduced herself. “Hi, my name is Louise. Why are you all here? Is something special taking place that I’m unaware of?”

“It’s so nice to meet you, Louise. My name is Barbara,” I replied. “Our outreach group will be visiting here on a weekly basis. We look forward to spending time with you and the rest of the residents.” Since she was unable to go outdoors on her own, I suggested, “Louise, would you like me to take you outside for some fresh air before lunch?”

“I would love that. Anytime someone can take me outdoors, I’m all for it,” she said, clinging to my hand.

We found a lovely, cool spot under a shaded tree. As we chatted, Louise shared all she had gone through the past few years. I was caught off guard by what she endured in such a short time span. “A few years ago I lost my husband of fifty-four years. After his passing, I became ill, fell down, and lost the use of my legs. Not being able to live independently, I sold my home and car in order to move into here.”

“That’s a lot for one person to go through in such a short time period,” I said. “I admire how well you have adjusted.”

“Yes, it was a big transition. Especially when I lost the ability to walk. You see, I was a vibrant, daily walker. I faithfully walked two miles in the morning and two miles in the evening. I loved the life that I lived, but in the course of a few years, that all changed. What got me through it was my faith in God and encouragement from my family and friends,” she explained.

Louise glanced at her watch. “It’s getting close to lunch hour. Could you please bring me back inside so I can have lunch and then get ready for work?”

“Work! What type of work?” I asked, amazed, once again, by this ninety-one-year-old woman.

As I wheeled her back to her floor, she explained. “I knew I had to keep busy. It wouldn’t be good for me to stay in my room all day long. I’d become too depressed thinking about all the different things I had lost. As soon as I settled in, I asked if I could do some volunteer work for the facility. While waiting for their reply, every night I prayed, asking God to grant me a position. Sure enough, a few days later, they gave me a position. I welcome and direct all the visitors entering the facility. I love it! It’s the highlight of my day.”

As months passed, Louise and I bonded. We spent hours outside the facility getting to know each other. On some occasions, when Louise was too ill to go out or the weather was rainy, we spent time in her room instead. Then one day, this amazing woman caught me off guard again. “Barbara, my granddaughter is getting married next month,” she told me. “I so much would love to attend the wedding, but it’s out of state. I’m not strong enough to fly and I don’t want to be a burden on my family during the wedding. However, my family and the facility have arranged for me to watch the wedding ‘live’ in my room by webcam. Would you like to come and watch it with me?”

“It’s such an honor to be invited,” I said. “I would love to watch your granddaughter’s wedding with you. It will be as though we are right there with them.”

When the big day arrived, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a small cake, paper plates, and plastic forks. I wanted Louise not only to watch her granddaughter’s wedding live, but also to enjoy the celebration by having cake afterwards. Without a doubt, it was a splendid afternoon as I watched Louise’s eyes tear up while witnessing her granddaughter walk down the aisle. The “icing on the cake” occurred when Louise’s family came over to the webcam, one by one, to express their love to her. Yes, she could not attend the actual wedding, but with a flexible spirit, she still participated in it.

Although Louise lost much, the one thing that didn’t change was her lovely, cheerful demeanor. I believe that her positive attitude paved the way for her to accept the changes life threw her way. In return, it allowed her to still smile and stand strong from the inside out, regardless of her inability to walk, cook, clean, shop, drive, travel, etc. — life’s daily pleasures that many take for granted or perhaps even grumble about.

Here I thought I was going to serve and minister to those in need, but in fact Louise ministered to me. She taught me a valuable lesson. Life is full of transition and unforeseeable changes — some good, some bad, some inevitable, and some heartbreaking. However, with faith, family, friends, and a good attitude, we can make it through the various challenges of life.

As my one-year commitment to the Hearts of Love outreach neared its end, I faced a positive, yet challenging change that put me to a test. Having to let go of what I enjoyed doing, reaching out to the aging population, in order to become a women’s small group leader was a tough decision. I had the choice to handle the change with an unsupportive attitude or an adaptable, positive one. Choosing the latter, as Louise often did, proved to be the healthiest choice in embracing the change taking place in my life and letting go of the familiar.

~Barbara Alpert

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