So I'm taking a break from the history of Project Smile to talk about a donation that we did today. It is has been on my mind all day. A few months ago, I decided that we should expand our service to provide elderly residents of nursing homes with gifts of stuffed animals. While it is a departure from our work to help children, it is still fitting with our goal of helping the most vulnerable of our society. So this month, after we got some grant money to support our program, we officially launched Operation Elder Care.
Today, I delivered a donation of 71 stuffed animals to a nursing home in Hopedale. I came home this afternoon and cried- not because the donation didn't go well- it went great, but from the sheer sadness of seeing people so frail and in such a condition where they barely know anything that happens around them. I couldn't help but think how the old ladies were once my age and how fast life goes by and how dreadfully sad it is to lose your freedom and health and everything that made you active in the world. In one sense, they are lucky in that they did get to lead long lives. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is those who die too soon, who are gone long before they could be considered old, leaving only unfinished dreams and shattered loved ones. But still, my heart went out today to the elderly I met and I wish I could have done more. Our stuffed animals were well received, the ladies did brighten as they held their gifts, some even played with them. The staff were happy to distribute them. As I watched one lady holding onto her stuffed animal with a smile on her face, a staff member told me what an unusual scene that was. Evidently, the lady usually was bad tempered and would throw things.
Even with the positive response, I felt almost guilty as I walked to my car. Here I was young and energetic, driving away with almost all the freedom in the world and there they were, near the end of their lives, behind the locked doors of a nursing home- in poor health and most with limited understanding of the world around them. I know it is the cycle of a life, but that didn't take away the sadness. It did remind me of how quickly the years will go by and how it matters to make the most of every moment, because it will never come back.