Spiritual Climate Newsletter DECEMBER 2005 Part 3 The Ultimate and Perfect Gift: Love By Wendy Ford

The Ultimate and Perfect Gift: Love

By Wendy Ford

 

Having grown up in a middle class Protestant family, Christmas has always been a very special time of year for me.  Many happy memories have their sources around the holiday times.  Our family had its traditions and now that we are grown it is not hard to tap back into those memories at a moment’s notice.

 

A package arrived on my doorstep the other day.  Immediately recognizing the return address I eagerly set about working my way through the layers of tape and paper.  My sister had promised to send us some Stadium Mustard and Hellman’s mayonnaise since we cannot find those brands here in Arizona.  As I reached into the box my hand folded around something ceramic that was not the expected bottle.  What in the world?  As I carefully unwrapped the plastic there in my hand was a Santa mug.  It was bright cherry red, the head of Santa with his snowy white curly beard, wearing a big grin and winking one eye.  A flood of memories was instantly triggered.

 

The day after Thanksgiving Mom would pull down the five Santa mugs and serve hot chocolate in them for breakfast.  From that Friday morning until the night of New Years Day those mugs would hold any beverage served from orange juice to cocoa to tea to milk to eggnog.  No family member would have even entertained the notion of drinking from anything else.  If behavior warranted the reward would be to stir hot chocolate with a candy cane.  Of course each of us tried to stir every thing with candy canes but quickly learned orange juice and candy cane don’t mix too well.  Coupled with the age old admonition to be good or Santa wouldn’t leave any toys Mom and Dad were treated and oft times amused to be sure with our efforts to demonstrate the best of all behaviors for the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

Many other memories surround the holidays for me:  good times with relatives and friends, the humorous mishaps that inevitably go with family gatherings, several family tragedies that occurred around the holidays.  I remember the infamous Year of The Trash Can.  It had been financially tight one year and my Mom was more than a little miffed that my Dad presented her a brand new never been scratched Rubbermaid trash can complete with the new style of latching lid.  That is until he asked her if she had looked under the lid.  Taped to the underside of the lid was a one hundred dollar bill with the instructions that she was only to use it for something for herself. 

 

Chuckles can still be elicited by the memory of the year Mom and the next-door neighbor struggled to get the Barker lounger from the neighbor’s garage up our porch steps and into the living room without my dad getting wise.  Of course it kept opening up on them generating much giggling.  To this day I think Dad knew but was getting as much of a kick out of hearing them as they had accomplishing the task. 

 

High on the list of memory is the year we went out to cut our own tree as a surprise to Mom and ended up with store bought when no matter what my father-the-engineer did it was just too big and crooked to stand in our living room.  “Well it didn’t look that big out in the forest.”  After gracefully falling over on my sister as she was pouring water into the stand my dad gave up.  Mom came home from shopping to see a tree in the middle of the front yard, thousands of pine needles strewn everywhere indoors and out, pieces of tree trunk scattered near the front steps and a note tacked to the front door “Have gone to buy a tree.” 

 

Then there was the year my aunt had taken seriously ill and her three-month-old daughter and three year old son came to stay with us.  It was a trying time for many reasons and my mom and dad were pretty stressed.  We’d all gather around the crib and sing to get the baby to sleep, night after night after night.  At that time none of us had ever heard of a newborn baby being addicted to drugs.  My heart still swells as I remember the time spent and patience and Love Mom poured into those two little children and still aches when remembering the look on my mom’s face as their mother took them back on Christmas Eve.  None of us batted an eye when Christmas dinner that year consisted of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and Mom fell asleep under the flashing Christmas tree lights.  Each of us became acutely aware of how fortunate we were as a family and how much we meant to each other.  That was the Christmas I became aware of the power of unconditional Love.

 

Memories can be brought up in a heart beat by a sight or sound or smell: the jangling jingle of the Salvation Army kettle bell, the scent of fresh pine, the pepperminty smell of candy canes, the bright lights of neighborhood homes gaily flashing.  But you know what I have little to no recollection of?  Gifts I received from Santa, et al.  It is not the material things that can be recalled.  Memories are strong about the excitement and anticipation of key things my sister and brother and parents received but it is odd that little is recalled of things I received from others.  The emotions attached to the spirit of giving are strong but very vague from the receiving side.

 

Riding the Rapid into Downtown Cleveland to see Santa at Halle’s Department Store was always the highlight of the season.  The whole family would get all dressed up in our best clothes, paten leather Mary Janes included, and bundle up with our hand muffs and scarves.  We’d get off under the Terminal Tower and ride the clattery wooden escalator up to the seventh floor to see Mr. Jing-A-Ling who was Santa’s main elf and the keeper of the keys to allow entry into Santa’s land.  Anyone growing up in Cleveland in the late 1950’s to late 1960’s knew every word to the song about him.  Only after I was in high school did I learn that Mr. Jing-A-Ling was actually played by the father of one of my fellow classmates and was in real life an executive at the television station.  I had also known him most of my life as the family went to our church.  Those times spent with the family are warm memories.

 

Shopping with my mom for the Christmas season was always a great treat and adventure.  Being the oldest I was the keeper of the secrets of the toys for my sister and brother and was even recruited to help my mom wrap everyone’s gifts.  As I got older inevitably Dad would enlist my assistance wrapping things he had bought or in going shopping with him.  Helping my younger brother and sister pick out cherished gifts to give Mom and Dad was always fun and the endless taunts of “I know what so and so got you” was, of course, the sisterly thing to do.  But it is not the memories of any of the items that have stuck.  It is the time spent with my mom and dad and brother and sister and the plotting and planning and the giggling that have found permanent places in my inner records.

 

My husband and I hold our own tradition of no gift exchange between us on Christmas.  The gift we give is our time to each other on that day.  Since we met over thirty years ago we’ve managed never to be apart on Christmas Day.  His time is the most precious of gifts.

 

Evidently for me, memories have been stored that reflect a sharing of Love, not things from Christmases past.  What a great blessing the ultimate of gifts.  Memories based on my reactions to the flow of Love.   

 

In today’s busy world with consumerism taking a front and prominent seat in the holiday season I wonder just what it is that anyone will retain long lasting memories of?  Being caught up in the wild Day After Thanksgiving Sales?  The receiving of the credit card bills that stream in during January?  Will memories of a lifetime be generated by the electronic gadgetry that is promoting more and more isolation?  Is anyone “making” emotional warm memories anymore? 

 

Why is it that this is the time of year we feel compelled to buy something for everyone we know?  Why do people feel the need to be around other people every minute and gather in large, loud parties?  After being under the tutelage of Dr. Strickler all these years I have come to understand it is because this is the time of year when the unconditional Love of The One flows most strongly flooding this plane.  It tugs literally at our hearts and we are filled with it.  Yet, paradoxically, our hearts are simultaneously responding to the emptiness of the presence of the No Thing, The One.  For the untrained, the feeling of emptiness or more correctly abandonment as alluded to in Dr. Strickler’s November article, is misinterpreted as loneliness.

 

At this time of year the nights are still getting longer so there is more darkness and quiet.  There is opportunity for time to think and be quiet.  But instead of using that time to contemplate and think and feel and experience and open ourselves to that unconditional Love many try to fill the darkness, emptiness and quiet with bright lights and glitter, noise and activity and crowds.

 

Our senses are misinterpreting the meanings of our feelings and with the aid of shrewd businesses and advertisers who are keenly aware of the psychological responses to certain stimuli we are led to believe that these feelings can only be responded to with the buying of things and giving of things and filling our time with parties and activities and noise.  

 

The joy of the season is being in the wash of unconditional Love as it floods this plane from the Source.  Jesus manifested on the earth plane to anchor the Christ energy, the energy of unconditional Love.  It is not necessary to drive yourself crazy shopping and running to parties in order to express and share and experience that Love.  The giving of one’s time, the sharing of a smile, the lending of a hand, a gentle touch or kind word will suffice.  No doubt giving to those less fortunate is critical.  But I don’t consider “those less fortunate” to include the almost mandatory gratuities, expected gifts to supervisors and bosses or mandatory gifts to everyone you know.  No, genuine giving from the heart is how Love is expressed.  The genuine sharing of Love from heart to heart is the one true gift.

 

“The path of Love is the right royal road that leads to the abode of immortality and eternal bliss—Parama Dharma, where time cannot exercise its destructive power, where Maya cannot show her face.  It is the clear and open way to God.

 

There is no virtue higher than Love; there is no treasure higher than Love; there is no knowledge higher than Love; there is no Dharma higher than Love; there is no religion higher than Love.  Because Love is truth.  Love is God.  This world has come out of Love, this world exists in Love and this world ultimately dissolves in Love.  God is an embodiment of Love.  In every inch of His creation you can verily understand his Love.

 

Live in Love.  Breathe Love.  Sing in Love.  Eat in Love.  Drink in Love.  Talk in Love.  Pray in Love.  Meditate in Love.  Think in Love.  Move in Love.  Die in Love.  Purify your thoughts, speech and action in the fire of Love.  Bathe and plunge in the sacred ocean of Love.  Imbibe the honey of Love and become an embodiment of Love.”

 

May these words of my Guru, Swami Sivanda,

Be a source of joy and inspiration to you.

Swami Satchidananda.

 

As this Holy Season proceeds may you open yourself to the flow of unconditional Love of the One.  May you allow your heart to be filled and your Being to shine the Light into this world we stumble around in.  Blessings.

 

Wendy Ford

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Spiritual Climate Newsletter SEPT 2005 part 4 Who or What is Your God?  To Whom or What Are You In Service?  by Wendy Ford

Who or What is Your God?

To Whom or What Are You In Service?

by Wendy Ford

 

“You shall have

 no other gods before me”      

                       

The first of the Ten Commandments of The Holy Bible.

 

To serve God is an admirable endeavor, a worthy goal.  But in today’s society how many “gods” are there?  Over the past several months Dr. Strickler’s classes have stimulated much personal thought, introspection and observation.

 

Dr. Strickler has frequently referred to God’s Libel Suit:  the biggest, toughest, bad-assed libel suit of them all:  The Ultimate, Super-Sized Libel Suit of God versus Humanity for taking God’s name and using it to do Humanity’s bidding over the past several thousand years under the umbrella of any religion that ever existed. 

 

Having a war?  Do it in God’s name.  That will get you all the troops you need and of course grant you the right to wage the war.  Have a government you want to overthrow?  Do it in the name of God.  That will justify the move and the nation is more likely to support you.  Have an entire group of people you want to conquer and enslave?  Do it in the name of God and all is right, for the invocation of God’s name somehow magically makes almost any action acceptable and admirable. 

 

Have a big sports contest you want very badly to win?  Invoke the name of God.  He’ll provide you the luck and skill to win.  If you lose maybe you didn’t call his name loudly enough.  Have a big business deal on the burner?  Invoke God and surely you will land the big one.  It doesn’t matter that the other guy just got screwed.  Go to church every Sunday, vow to serve God and then go about selling false advertisements for pharmaceuticals the rest of the week.  Pray to God every morning and night for the strength and guidance to do His work, then go out and walk right by the homeless people on the corner.  Let the door go in front of the little lady using a cane because you were in too much of a rush to even notice her.  Be rude to the fast food clerk making minimum wage in the attempt to keep her family fed because in her haste to serve your need for a double espresso she dropped your change and you were delayed for several precious seconds.

 

Humanity has made God its scapegoat.  By invoking God for help, guidance, assistance or whatever, Humanity or an individual has the mistaken belief they are thereby removed from taking full and just responsibility for any action or inaction.  They are somehow exonerated from having to go through the processes of asking questions, self exploration, of looking deep within to find areas of untruth, biases and prejudices that are at the foundation their selfhood.  That by “putting it in God’s hands” or by “turning it to over to God” they now have nothing more to do but sit back and wait for the answer, solution or miracle to be provided.  “I prayed for God’s help and this is how it turned out.  I put it all in His hands and the result is the Will of God.”  In other words they can hold up their hands and lament,       “Don’t look at me, it must be God’s Will (fault) it turned out that way.”

 

The following is a conceptualized response Dr. Strickler might make.  This is a compilation of several years’ worth of classes and has been approved by Dr. Strickler in its content and concepts. “God’s Will?  Ha!  God doesn’t have one damn thing to do with it!  Humanity is like an adult who goes to its parent and says, ‘I want wa wa.’  Would the parent get the adult child a glass of water?  Not likely.  The parent would be more likely to say, ‘You have two arms, two legs, get it yourself!’  Well The Lord of Life is much more likely to say, ‘I gave you two legs, two arms, a brain, use of Mind and Consciousness and use of Free Will.  Figure it out for your own damn self.  I’ll give you access to the principles and rules but it’s up to you to apply them.’  Do you really think the Almighty One is so intimately interested in you as you exist in this physical vehicle in this physical plane that he is going to help you get the promotion at work or win a football game?  Well, isn’t that an arrogant, self-centered opinion you have of yourself?  God doesn’t care about you.  Again, God does not care about you.  Not the animal you with your flawed personality and individualized flawed ego.  No!  The Lord of Life expects the individual expressions of Humanity to use what It gave them and what It gave them access to.  Not to keep wiping our butts and noses for all eternity!  What God does care about, my dear people, is your Soul.  The big You.  The You that more and more of you are losing communication with. ”

 

[As a side note, it was fascinating to stumble across the old movie Oh God with John Denver and George Burns yesterday.  If you have never seen it I highly recommend it, if you have I suggest you see it again.  John Denver’s character asks God, played by George Burns, “Why aren’t you helping us?”  His reply, “I’m responsible for the big stuff, everything else I left up to you.”] 

  

In an earlier article Dr. Strickler referenced the fact there are over 2700 factions of Christianity in the United State alone.  That is staggering and sobering.  How did that happen?

 

“If you don’t believe the way I (we) do, you are wrong and will burn in Hell for all Eternity.”  “He or she or they can’t be truly Christians and true believers if they believe differently.”  They throw up their hands in horror if any even DARE to ask any probing questions.  If someone can’t take the literal words from the particular version/translation of The Bible they have decided represents the absolute truth with no room for exploration then that person or persons are wrong and there is nothing to discuss.  “Our way is the only true way.”  Evidently a group of people can form their own sect and deem it the one true way and everyone else is wrong.  Now, reread the paragraph and for “Christian” substitute Moslem, Buddhist, Jewish, Pagan, Satanist, whatever, and for “Bible” substitute the Koran, Torah, whatever.  Doesn’t it start to look as if Humanity has created gods in its own image and likeness to suit its beliefs and opinions?

 

Religions are not the unique holders of titles and descriptors for god.  Anything or any one can function as a false god. All it takes is for that thing, idea or person to gain enough influence or become so important an individual ceases to ask questions or explore options and instead turns over their rights and control to “it”.  Mind you this is almost NEVER on a conscious basis.  Here are just a few examples.           

 

Money.  In some circles and societies Money is worshiped and honored above all else.  Some people’s entire lives are based on the amassing of Money and more Money without regard to morals or ethics or law.  Nothing and no one can or will be permitted to stand in the way of bringing more Money or profits into their coffers and pockets.  It matters not who gets hurt or suffers as a result of their actions or inactions.  Their lives are consumed by service to the god called Money.  Fancy terms are used to camouflage Money:  corporate profits for stockholders, tax incentives, tax cuts, financial rewards, perks, etc. but no matter how they dress it up it is still Money.

 

The personal ego.  For some the only concern is for themselves:  the god of Me-Myself-and-I.  How can a situation be manipulated, controlled or contrived to best suit an individual’s personal needs or wants?  Now.  Right now.  This instant.  The faster the better and disregard any possible consequences.  Whatever opinion or belief structure they hold is not only the correct one, but also the only one and any who dares to question are stupid and can’t understand.

 

A Nation.  Only the needs and wants of the Nation are important.  Of course those needs and wants are determined by individuals who have anthropomorphized the nation playing to and evoking/invoking emotional responses of the citizenry.  It is “for the good of the Nation” that certain policies are put into effect.  Even more disturbing, those who dare to question or analyze too deeply run the risk of finding themselves labeled traitors.  It matters not if individual rights are eroded or usurped under the guise of “for the good of the Nation”.  It is just assumed and expected the citizenry will be loyal and pay homage to their Nation no matter what.

 

Power.  The more Power the better, no matter what the cost, who gets hurt or what anyone thinks.   To have Power is to control.  To have control is to have the ability to enslave.  To have the ability to enslave is the ultimate power trip no matter how it is dressed up, for to have the power to enslave is to have the ability to take away part of a person’s humanity and erode the amount of consciousness to which they have access.  The result:  a pretty much mindless group of individuals who have less and less access to areas of their consciousness with diminished ability to question and probe and challenge.  “There’s nothing more reliable than a man or woman whose loyalty can be bought for hard cash.”  From the movie The Ninth Gate.

 

Food and alcohol.  Hunger for the unconditional Love and sustenance from soul and spirit can erroneously be reflected and interpreted on this physical plane as physical hunger or thirst.  Physical food or drink becomes the comfort of the physical vehicle when in reality the hunger and thirst was for nourishment from the soul to enable the processes of transformation and growth to engage and unfold.  The reflection of the need was misinterpreted here in the physical plane.

 

Entertainment and physical sensory input.  How many individuals can sit in a room alone, in the quiet for more than twenty minutes?  Most need to have the television on, music playing, be talking on the phone, be on line in a chat room or have people around them.  Some need to have all of these activities going on at the same time!   Some can’t even sit still long enough to pick up a book and read for thirty minutes.  Others can’t be alone no matter how many distractions are going on needing to go out of their homes in search of the entertainment of sporting events, movies and the company of others.  In order to avoid being alone many grab on to meaningless relationships hoping for the numbing of the senses by intense sexual activity.

 

Information and technology.  In the 1950’s our educational system changed from the classical model with a broad foundation in the philosophies, critical thinking and the arts, which enabled the discovery of knowledge to an information-based model.  Today’s education model has at its root dissemination of information, not the discovery of knowledge.  One who is able to spit back dates, facts, theories and formulae is considered to be knowledgeable.  Not that science and technology don’t have their places, they absolutely do.  But shouldn’t it also be taught what processes were used to derive the information?  That would be knowledge. Knowledge: noun;(1) acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition; (2) the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.  How many schools still include philosophy, critical thinking and creative writing in the curricula?  Many schools are cutting the arts and music so more information can be crammed in to pass the “achievement” tests and school days in most districts are being shortened due to budgetary constraints.  Our society places more value on passing tests than on the ability to think.  Could it be that if people are taught how to be observant, think and problem solve they might actually be able to ask relevant and probing questions?  Would this pose a threat to those in power, to those running corporations, Wall Street, the politicians and policy makers?    

 

It looks as if some people are serving multiple gods doesn’t it?  But here is a fascinating question:  has anyone made the conscious decision to serve his or her false god(s)?  Probably not.  It has come about subconsciously with great suaveness and so insidiously that few are aware enough to ever realize it.  Without ever having looked beneath the surface for possible errors in interpretation of perceptions or discernments that form the foundations of their opinions and beliefs, that guide their reactions to experiences, or generate their actions, reactions and inactions they have subconsciously become enslaved by the false god(s) to which they give service.

 

For those of you who are pursuing knowledge and truth, who are making honest attempts and inroads in self-exploration in the pursuit of uncovering the areas of your misconceptions and misperceptions upon which your foundation of prejudices and biases has been erected, Kudos!  Keep moving and exploring.  Don’t give up.  I have found it is not an easy nor pain free journey, but the joy of discovery makes the bumps, bruises and discomfort of self-exposure easier to bear.  I am not the same person I was when we moved here three years ago, thank God.  It takes hard work and perseverance, lots of tissues and space to pace and talk with yourself.

 

The most important key of all:  The process requires being in the presence of a True Spiritual Teacher to kick you in the butt when needed, lend a shoulder for your tears, give you a hug, lend a hand when you stumble, join you in laughter at the often times revelation of the “duh” factor, to ask questions you may not have dared to even ask yourself, for the True Spiritual Teacher knows you better than you know yourself at the level of Soul.  The process requires being in the living presence of a True Spiritual Teacher to spark the awareness, to fan the processes of dissolution, to ignite the flames of transformation that enables growth.

 

For those of you who have not yet started on your journey may I ask why not?  Are you are so busy serving a false god(s) you have no time for self-discovery?  Do you see no need for self-growth and transformation from the animal Homo-sapiens into a true Human Being?  Or sadly, do you not even recognize the latent potential and possibility for growth and transformation?  Are you still living in the dream of Adam?

 

May the Lord of Life grant you the ability and desire to take an honest look at yourself, your life, your circumstances and identify what god(s) you may be truly serving.  May you be open to the voice that will guide you to have access to the principles and laws with which all is governed.  May you find the courage and desire to tap into the potential held within each of us to grow and transform, to become a true Human Being.

 

Wendy Ford 

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Spiritual Climate Newsletter AUGUST 2004 Part 2 You Don’t Need A Magician To Make People Invisible by Wendy Ford

You Don’t Need A Magician To Make People Invisible

By Wendy Ford

Please bear with me a moment.  I have to get something off my chest and just vent.  Where in the heck do some people get off and come from that they treat their elders with such disdain and lack of respect and dignity!  How can they stand by and do nothing when an elder is in distress?  How can they patronize with such disrespect and disdain?  How can they just flippantly dismiss the value or even the very existence of another human being?  What triggered this?  A telephone conversation with a client’s family member, that’s what.  But more on this in a bit.  An explanation is in order first.

The perspective from which this piece is written is one that has been developed over a long period of time and from personal observations and experiences.  It is a perspective spoken from with a certain amount of expertise.  My area of interest and practice is the elderly, in particular the frail elderly. Those women and men who are living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes and some who are able to be in their own homes, for now.  Having worked in the health care profession for over thirty years (yes, over thirty years which makes me not too far from being considered an elder myself in the eyes of many) affords a broad and deep base from which to speak.  The easy thing to write about would be all the thousands of wonderful, loving families and individuals encountered over the years who have given of their time, their hearts, their money, their energy, their homes, for some their careers, their health and, ultimately more than a few have been seen to have even given their own lives in the care of an elderly parent or family member.  To all of those selfless and generous individuals goes my deepest gratitude, respect and admiration.  Without them the professional towel might have been tossed in a long time ago.  They keep up my spirits and fill my heart.  They are my foundation.  They make it worth slogging and wading through all the ever-changing Medicare rules, regulations, documentation and payment guidelines.  They more than make up for the ones who cause so much frustration and heartache; for those families and individuals who treat their elders so shamefully, with disregard for them as people or even worse (in my opinion) refuse to acknowledge their very existence. 

It isn’t necessary to go into the details of the specific telephone conversation that triggered the opening questions. You’ll pick up the gist of it.  A phrase I find being muttered more often than should be necessary is, “Shoot the family and keep the patient.”  This is often preceded by a telephone conversation or encounter with the family or “responsible party” of a potential client.  Hackles raise and teeth clench when receiving a response that goes something like this:  “Oh, mother (aunt, uncle grandfather, whatever) is 90 years old and forgetful, has arthritis and a bad heart.  She won’t ever walk very far again.  What makes you think you can do anything?  What’s the purpose? (Left unspoken is, “Why bother and waste your time?”)”  Oh, I don’t know, I thought preparing her for the next walk-a-thon might be a great idea and a grand goal!  How about relieving her pain by working her arthritic joints and strengthening her legs so she can get up out of a chair with her walker on the first try?  How about enabling her to get to the bathroom with minimal assistance so she doesn’t have to always go in the diaper she’s in?  How about making her less dependent (note I did word independent was not used) on the help of the caregivers so she has some sense of self-worth and dignity?  How about seeing the smile on her face when I walk in and the hug she gives me?  And did you know she thinks you’re the best daughter in the whole world and can’t stop talking about how proud she is of you?  How she lights up talking about her grandchildren even though she’s never even met most of them?  She even understands you have your own life so you really can’t get in much (even though you live 5 miles away and only come once a month and then it’s just to bring supplies and sign paperwork because the facility requires it in order for her to keep living there?).”  THAT’s the response that must be swallowed to keep from spilling out at times.

 Oh, don’t be mistaken.  It is NOT being said that the elderly being viewed by the youth as “has-beens” or “old hat” is anything new.  There’s always been the generation gap.  And each new generation is, in the eyes of their elders, well on the way of going to hell in a hand basket because their language is so sinful and their music is that of the very devil and they have no respect for the previous generations.  But over the last thirty years I do notice that the value of our elders seems to be being diminished in the eyes of many (including government programs and resources).  What’s worth  exploring is WHY this is occurring with seemingly increasing intensity and volume at the very time that the elderly population is the fastest growing segment of our population.

It must be confessed, there are clear memories of eyes being mentally rolled as a teenager (never have even dreamed of really doing it) at some unsolicited bit of sage advice thrust upon me by well-meaning parents or teachers or grandparents.  So too, exist vivid recollections of having that same advice bite me in the butt or ring in my ears at a later time (perhaps years later) as the truth of what they were saying or warning against came to light.  This usually took place as I was trying to pull myself out of some hole I had dug and fallen into or the wall that my face was flush up against because advice had not been taken or predictions or warnings heeded.  It was only at those critical times that understanding dawned:  the advice had come from knowledge gained through experiences.  That only my best interest was at heart and they had been trying to prevent me from having to learn or go through the same experience(s), or whatever it was, and learn the hard way.  It was only then that the true value of what had been freely given became apparent.  

There also exists the clear memory when, as a new graduate, the ink on my Physical Therapy license was not yet dry.  A therapist who had been around for ten years was, in my fresh young eyes, over the hill.  How could anyone who had been in the field that long possibly be up to date on the most current research and techniques?  A therapist who had been in practice for twenty years?  A relic.  How could someone that old even hope to be up to date and useful and knowledgeable in a field where research and data was shedding new light almost daily and that was changing faster than the books and articles could be printed?  So, armed with the latest information and techniques (learned on fellow therapy students, in a class laboratory setting with all the latest equipment, having had three whole months of clinical internship in which to put my skills into practice) I walked into my first real job as a full time staff therapist.  I was ready.  I was prepared.  I was a therapist.  Yep. I was ready.  Bring it on.  Yep.  I was ready.  Yeah, right. 

Fortunately for me, that mentality lasted less than a week.  A therapist who would come to be a sort of mentor patiently provided guidance through the first experiences of handling an independent patient load without the back up of a clinical instructor.  She provided introduction to the complex and real workings of the medical field.  A friendly and sympathetic ear was available to listen, a kindly voice ready with advice when asked, and a soft but strong shoulder was there to catch the tears as the struggling ensued to get the ideals of the world of academia to mesh with the complex and often harsh realities of the real world.  It was sort of like taking the training wheels off the new two-wheel bike and riding down the sidewalk with all of the bumps and cracks and tree roots and people coming from the other direction and the neighbor’s dog chasing at your heels and hitting a sudden downhill slope and having your foot slide right off one of the pedals as you hurtle headlong into who knows what instead of on the nice smooth asphalt of the wide and empty driveway.  The basics are the same but it’s the fine details no one ever told you about that will trip you up!  Her insight and experience were invaluable.  The value of the knowledge and experiences of one who had gone before came to be appreciated and cherished.

That’s an interesting phrase:  “the value of the knowledge and experiences of one who had gone before.”  That is what is being perceived as being lost regarding our elderly by many in our current society; the value of the elderly.  Why is that so?  Why is the value being diminished or lost?  What could be the consequences?

In times past in our society, and indeed still today in many cultures, the elderly were revered, honored and cherished.  The elders used to be sought out for their advice and wisdom.  Their stories were listened to and lessons learned from their experiences.  Just where did our oral traditions come from?  Where did our family histories come from?  Where did our sense of family and connectedness come from?  What held families together?  The elders.  If elders are not to be valued, who will pass down the family histories, stories, legends, and traditions?  What will hold families together?  What will connect us with our past?  What will the effect of no past be on the future?  They say history is written so that lessons can be learned by future generations.  If there is no history written or valued then what becomes of the future?  If history is to be constantly rewritten so that it is always currently politically correct what becomes of the truth of what really happened (no matter how shameful or embarrassing or how big the mistake)?  If the lessons learned by our elders are to have no value and are to be ignored, what will happen to future generations?

Extended care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes are springing up faster in our nation than ever before.  Granted the elderly population is growing, but why the warehouse mentality?

Warehouse mentality?  Yes. You are already familiar with it. Want the best price for a new DVD player?  You can find a really good bargain if you go to a warehouse where they have bought in bulk and offer reduced the prices from the Mom and Pop appliance store that used to be around the corner when you were growing up.  Want lower food prices?  Go to the warehouse club and get lower prices than from the family market that your Mom used to take you to on Saturday mornings.

That same thinking is showing up in the way our society is treating its frail elderly.  If you put all of the frail old ones in one place, in one building or group of buildings then it will be more convenient and more cost effective to care for them.  The average person doesn’t have to think about them or deal with them on a daily basis.  The average person really never has to be confronted by their needs and problems.  The average person has no idea that there even is a portion of our society called the “Frail Elderly” because the frail elderly are being neatly tucked away out of the conscious awareness of most.  Society has managed to make them invisible.  And it didn’t take any magic to accomplish this extraordinary feat either! 

Please be assured, this is NOT being critical of the increasing tendency for the retired to gather in their own communities with their own entertainment and recreational facilities.  Nor is it being discounted that it is much more cost effective to give quality care to a group of individuals in one setting than to try to deliver quality care to individuals one by one who are spread out geographically throughout a community.  No.  What is of great concern is the growing invisibility of our frail elderly. 

Part of the answer to the question of why this warehouse mentality has begun to flourish lies in the fact that most households in our society depend on all members working out side the home.  The stay at home Moms and Dads are not as prevalent as in past generations.  There is no one to stay with a failing elderly parent or family member twenty-four hours, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year for five, ten even fifteen years.  Part of the answer also lies in the fact that people are living longer, well into their 80’s and 90’s.  As they live longer their children are approaching their 60’s and 70’s!  More and more or us approaching retirement will be spending those years caring for aging, ailing family members.  And, as the economic demands continue to squeeze resources made available to the elderly, more and more of us will be actually having to work past and through our retirement years in order to make ends meet and survive.  Then who stays home takes care of Mom or Dad?

OK.  The warehousing mentality and concept can be explained.  Sort of.  But once an elderly person is institutionalized they become isolated from society.  Neighbors no longer just stop by because they don’t drive anymore and can’t get across town to visit.  If the elderly person has retired and moved from the Midwest or East to Florida or Arizona to enjoy their retirement, chances are there is no local family or that any family is scattered across the nation.  Being isolated from society makes them more or less invisible.  Invisibility leads to a loss of connectedness.  If there is no grandchild sitting on the floor by your knee who is going to listen to your stories, or even care if you have any stories to share?  What would make you even want to share your stories if there is no one asking, no one listening?  Without a sense of belonging, without a sense of worth and value, without a feeling of connectedness why would an elder want to even continue to live?  Depression is a major problem among the elderly and frail elderly, evidently with good reason.        

From personal experience I can assure you the stories are many and of great value.  They can make you laugh until the tears flow, they can tug at your heart until the tears flow.  You can get some mighty fine recipes from how to handle pie dough when its humid to how best to stretch a pot of soup and tips about how to get spots out and get items clean without using a lot of chemicals.  You can learn about how things used to be, how and what people cared about, what made them happy or sad, what challenges they had to overcome.  A city girl might learn just how a grain silo works, that a cow needs to be pregnant before it gives milk, (Who knew?  Aren’t dairy cows just that?  Cows that are bred to give milk?) or that probably the hardest thing to be is a farmer who is at the mercy of the elements and still somehow makes a living.  You can learn about life.  You can learn about what it takes to make it through tough times.  You can learn about heart, and grit and bravery and stubbornness.  You can learn about what makes a person survive and thrive.

If people can’t listen, if people can’t take the time to ask, if people can’t or don’t care, what does that say about them?  Maybe it’s because our society is so accustomed to everything moving fast with instant this, and that.  Time schedules to keep, productivity numbers to be met.  On a personal note, countless hours have been spent off time logs and payroll records (don’t interfere with the productivity of the day, please) because I refused to rush or brush off one of my clients who wanted to tell a story or share a new picture or just needed a friendly chat.  It was just my personal gift to me to spend the extra time with them.

Maybe people have forgotten how, or just don’t want to be bothered, to take the extra time an elder often needs to process thoughts and ideas.  Many people simply do not understand and are ignorant and unaware of the extra time elders may need for mental processing.  For example, people often mistake the extra time or repetition of something an elder might need because of poor hearing to be the result of confusion and dementia.  Time is simply not taken to listen to what the elder is saying or asking.

Maybe unconsciously people are afraid of their own mortality and death.  For the frail elderly are certainly close to their time of transformation.  Maybe people are afraid of getting old, afraid of their own aging process.  For youth is not as eternal as hope.  Maybe people are consciously or unconsciously afraid of the changes that old age can bring physically and mentally.  It has been scientifically proven that even people afflicted with dementia can remain mentally active if stimulation is provided, but without continued stimulation even a normal brain’s mental functions will gradually deteriorate (regardless of the age of the physical vehicle).  The physical changes are many as the physical vehicle deteriorates.  Eyesight and hearing fail, arthritis can freeze and twist once supple joints, beautiful heads of hair turn white and become thin or nonexistent.

Thanks to Wall Street and marketing, our society has become obsessed with youth and youthful appearances.  The natural changes that accompany aging are not welcomed and are no longer an acceptable option in the marketing-created, manufactured, disposable, microwave society of today.  If it’s old, throw it out.  If it’s broken or damaged, throw it out.  Replace it with a new or younger one.  Indeed many marriages have fallen victim to that concept!  Has this trickled over into our concept about aging?  Are our elders falling victim to this disposable society?  It is chilling that this should even be a possibility, that this question should even need to be asked.

Magicians evidently are not the only ones capable of making things disappear.  Our society seems well on the way to making entire portions of itself invisible.  Many of us in the healthcare field have taken note of the changes our society has made and is making regarding its attitude toward its elderly and frail elderly populations.  Maybe this piece will cause you to examine how you view our elderly.  Perhaps this piece will inspire someone to volunteer in a facility just to talk and spend time with some of our elders.  Maybe this will nudge someone to call or visit their own elder (I called my own Mom and Dad in the middle of writing this piece).  Maybe this will provide a stimulus for thought as to just where our society is headed in regards to the treatment of and attitudes toward our elders.  Is the current direction and trend to be continued?  Or does it need to be halted and changed?  If no one speaks for those without voices of their own, who will ever hear them?  If no one directs attention to their existence will anyone ever see them?  Just because the elderly and frail elderly are often silent and invisible, it does not mean they don’t exist.  When you reach your time of advanced years, who will make you invisible?  To put a twist on a phrase: For there, with the grace of God, go I.

May the Light of Truth shine to open your eyes, your ears, your mind, your heart.

Wendy Ford

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