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Declare a holiday!

It’s birthday month! I have officially declared it a holiday. Since this might be only important to me, I’ve got to be really good at making up some great reasons for celebrations. After all, it’s birthday month!

A celebration doesn’t have to be huge. Sometimes you just never know when a celebration is going to come up. Sometimes it just happens. A couple weeks ago, I had an unplanned celebration. I was able to spend a few hours with a delightful 89-year-old gentleman. Now mind you I said unplanned — if I would have planned to do this, it certainly wouldn’t have been on that day. I was definitely way too busy that day. However, it didn’t take me long to know this truly was a celebration, a holiday. Since it was a gorgeous morning we (he) decided an ATV ride was in order. John’s favorite thing is making sure there are no cans in the ditches around his home. We had a delightful time, a wonderful ATV ride, with the sun shining brightly. We didn’t find as many cans as we had hoped, but every time there was some type of garbage, John declared it was worth picking it up just because we were “concerned citizens.” It certainly was a day for celebration. I felt like I truly had experienced a holiday.

I’m here to tell you, we all need more holidays. If I hadn’t had my visit with John, I certainly had plenty of things that I had to get done in my office. I didn’t know there was a great reason to just do a little celebrating that day, a reason to step back from responsibilities and enjoy a holiday.

Take the time to look for a reason to celebrate. When you meet someone in the grocery store you haven’t seen for ages, why not a cup of coffee right afterwards just to catch up? We all know we don’t need the whole pan of brownies at our house. I’m sure the neighbor next door would love just a few (maybe it should be the neighbor that’s not so friendly). Today, someone said “Oh, I would just love to go for a walk in the leaves with a friend. It’s such a beautiful day!” Why can’t we just respond “I know the perfect place. Let’s go!” I know and have used all the excuses of time, too busy … yah, yah, yah. Look for those little opportunities in your day — they may only take minutes — and make them a holiday.

We’ve all heard the random acts of kindness stories, paying in the drive through for the next person in line, making an extra Christmas card and handing it to someone in the grocery store, leaving a plant or flowers on a doorstep. There are hundreds of ideas, but have you actually done anything? Is it just fun to read the stories? It’s time to get out there and actually do it. Make a little holiday for someone else.

I love the story of this neighborhood: When growing up, the front porch was the place to be. Neighbors frequently joined us on the porch to chat, enjoy a cold beverage, share stories and offer support. The openness of that porch and the people who gathered there showed me just how important a community is. In recent years, those neighbors have meant more than ever before. They have transformed from occasional conversation partners to Grandma’s connection to the outside world.

My grandmother has never grown accustom to living alone, and as she says, you can only clean your closets so many times before people think you’re crazy. Her neighbors have always helped break up the monotony of day to day. They’ve stopped by to share dinner, talk for a while and bring in the mail. They’ve listened to her stories, filled her in on neighborhood gossip and offered a helping hand.

When Grandma moved out of her house, she was sad to leave her neighbors and that porch behind. Luckily, Grandma didn’t have anything to worry about. It turns out those old neighbors are even more wonderful than she had thought. Instead of yelling “hello” over the hedges or cutting through lawns to come see her, they get in their cars and drive the three miles to her new place. They still bring goodies and offer a helping hand, and they still listen to her stories and share their own. They make sure Grandma still has a reason to celebrate; their visits are truly a little holiday.

You know my passion is for seniors, but this group of independent and proud individuals is often difficult to help. Even though there are so many needs, sometimes you really have to search for the small things. This story is a good example:

Sometimes they just need a hug! A 9-year-old girl rushed to give her great-grandma in an assisted living facility a big hug. As she neared her great grandmother’s table, there was a resident at a nearby table that tugged at her sleeve. The woman, who was easily into her ninth decade, pulled her closer and asked, “Would you mind giving me a hug?”

She didn’t pull away or somehow make this woman feel embarrassed. She wasn’t worried about the dangers of strangers to her. Without a word, the 9-year-old threw her arms open and wrapped them tightly around the small woman. The woman’s face lit up and there was a giant grin on the girl’s face. When the lovely lady released from the hug, the 9-year-old was still there holding her tight.

She eventually let go and flashed her new friend a big smile. When she turned to walk away, the woman grabbed her sleeve once again. “I haven’t hugged a child in more than 20 years,” she exclaimed with tears running down her face, “You just made my day!” The girl’s new friend was so delighted by just a simple hug.

The little girl was overheard talking to her mom on the way out the door. “She said I made her day just by giving her a hug. Do you think we can go every day so I can giver her a hug? Twenty years is way too long to not hug a little kid. We’ve got lots of hugs to catch up on!”

Especially for seniors, you need to really keep your eyes open for some way to help, because typically they aren’t going to ask you! Arthritis can make so many things difficult.mSimple things like opening jars, getting something out of your purse, writing a check, dialing a cell phone. Early dementia can make completing the simple steps to a task very difficult, like making a sandwich or understanding the clerk in the store. Parkinson’s can make walking out to the car on a windy day very difficult.

There are many ways to declare a little holiday, planned and unplanned. Personally I think the unplanned ones are the best, you just have to keep your eyes open in your daily life, and you’ll have the time to follow through. However, we also need to make more time to plan some holidays with those around us. It’s an old clique, but time really is just plain too short. There we go, the holiday is birthday month, but I don’t want it to be about me. I hope I can truly open my eyes to the little things around me that will be a celebration to others. Let the holidays begin!

DEB CRANNY is the executive director at Home Instead Senior Care in Brainerd.