Do not read this, do not take the time away from the person you are sitting with, have a conversation a smile and a laugh, you will learn more from that than the meanderings of this stranger.
The gift of time is one of the best ways of giving, whether that be volunteer time to your favorite charity or time spent with a stranger who then becomes a friend. While working with a therapy animal, the animal itself, Gopher in my case, provides a medical effect that is just coming into its full understanding and smiles and stories that I have shared before. Perhaps one of the most important parts of this equation is time. This week I learned of the death of a wise and learned friend. I would always know her as an elder, one of those people our society is too quick to discard and fail to recognize the importance of, thus bringing about this blog entry. This is not going to be a tale of how wonderfully a therapy dog performs, and the impact on a patient, instead it is going to be a soap box on which I will stand for a few minutes. If you have read this far you may choose not to go further, you may discard it, and that would be fine. It is the thoughts and feelings of this 33 year old white male, who has lived a fortunate life, bore witness to a great surge in technology, great tragedies of a society, and great accomplishments, who despite my age still tries to marvel and wonder about the world around me with the eyes of a child. This wonder of the world was something I shared with my departed friend who still had it despite her years of life and has served me as an inspiration to not be jaded and look with wonder of the world I am part of no matter how fleeting time may be.
Technology despite all its advances, and ability to connect oneself with the most obscure story from the other side of the world and allows me to stand on my proverbial soap box is also a source of limitations. Feel free to put the phrase 'back in my day' at any point you feel it is appropriate. Pause and think about it, if you are reading this outside of your home pause and look up. How many people do you see whose faces are glistened by the light of a glowing screen? How many couples, friends, colleagues are sitting in near silence observing the light emitting from their hands and not the light of the smile in the faces around them? In seeing the latest trending article and learning about the world miles away how much of the world are they missing right in front of them? How much knowledge is being lost in the pursuit of knowledge, entertainment or the latest celebrity scandal?
The questions I ask, may or may not get you to look up, but the world you are missing is so much more than what is captivating you in the moment. We are a culture of people who live in a fast paced environment we fail to see the forest for the trees and focus on the destination and forget the journey and other cliches you can add in here. Despite the fact they are cliches should not take away from their intent and meaning.
What has the gift of time has given me, a chance to learn the gift of time has been more for me than it has ever been for the person I have given the time to. Call me selfish I am, in this I thirst for knowledge and in the books I have read or diploma and degrees conferred upon me I learned nothing in comparison to what I have learned through the conversation with those around me. Strangers, friends or family have taught me more than memorized formulas, scientific calculations and even the arts could begin to teach me. In order to learn from this gift to yourself you have to be open, you have to listen and you must be able to reflect on those conversations even when you do not like the reflection.
Many years ago as a server working my way through college, I started a conversation with a woman who had come into the restaurant as a guest with friends and slowly those friends stop coming as they passed or age had taken away their ability to have freedom to go to lunch. I have never had any issue in speaking with an elder, even as a kid, my family always encouraged this and respect for elders in our society. I took this from childhood conversations with Mr. Woodworth on a bench when I as not more than 5 years old with me as an adult. In this case the conversations involved with a woman who merely wanted company while at lunch evolved into a wonderful friendship and great impact on my life, now all that remains is the memories of our conversations and being in her presence.
Our society is constantly changing and even different than it was a decade ago, a short time frame but an immense amount of change. Sometimes our elder members hold on to a hate or prejudice not acceptable by today's standards, but even conversations with people who feel this way holds a lesson for yourself. If you take the time, and have respectful conversations despite your differences you may learn of what propagated their hate, and how you may proceed in life and avoid those pitfalls. Embrace this look up and do not discard them.
Through time I have had the opportunity to learn via friends and first hand accounts of the conflict in Israel and Palestine by two people on differing sides of the issue sitting at the same table and having a conversation.
I have learned with time and conversations those around me traditions of countless cultures, differences in political opinions and social thoughts. All lessons independent of age, creed and prescribed race.
Through volunteering with Gopher I have had the opportunity to sit with many patients late in their life and have learned many lessons and the one consistent lesson, I wish I had more time to spend with this person, or that person or with my dog, my cat, I wish I had more time to show them how much I love them and how much they meant to me. The desire to spend time with a fellow human being is consistent and I have yet to hear one person tell me I wish I had more time with a glowing screen, the latest product, more time with the person in front of them.
My soap box has ended and I hope that you have not read this far, I hope you looked up, smiled and started a conversation, and started to learn. If you have read this far stop now, and look up in honor of my friend and for yourself.