making a difference
What’s in a name? Turns out, quite a bit. We have all been on the receiving end of name misspellings – whether our first name or our surname. Countless times since my 2000 marriage, my surname has been spelled Olsen. Fortunately, when our name appears in print, oftentimes such misprints are easy to correct and life blissfully carries on. But what about after our life has ended?
In my home-based gym, I have been exercising as of late to a Netflix series, Finding God, hosted by Morgan Freeman. What attracted me to the series was the fact that no one religion is spotlighted, rather, many beliefs are presented, and that pleases me to no end.
Today’s episode discussed the topic all of us wish we knew more about:
What happens after we leave this life; is there such a thing as eternal life?
Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question but what I can offer is the following: our name will live on forever. Morgan Freeman went to Thebes, Egypt and received an educational tour of Ramses’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings. (There were several Ramses, this was one of them.) In this tomb, Ramses tried to preserve the memory of his life by writing on the walls and pillars with both a self-body image (a selfie) and the actual writing of his name in the language of his time. He was well aware that many would outlive him but he was also aware that no one lives forever so he’d better make his mark on history while he could.
What about our mark on history? I already know there are more than one Irene Olsons, which is why when I published my book Requiem for the Status Quo, I wrote out my full name, including my middle name, Frances. No doubt I am not the only Irene Frances Olson who ever existed but to my knowledge, I am the only one who wrote this particular novel to honor her father who died from Alzheimer’s disease; I am the only Irene Frances Olson, née Desaulniers then changed to Desonier by her parents in the hopes of others spelling it correctly; the only Irene Frances Olson who birthed Erin Maureen Li Sai Wong Green; the only woman fortunate enough to be named Irene Frances Olson because of her marriage to Jerry Olson; I am also the only Grammo to her grandson, Lucas…and so on and so forth. Who I am as Irene Frances Olson is different from every other person similarly named because who I am is a result of how I have lived my life and how I continue to live my life.
My name is very important because it is attached to the me who is trying to make a difference everywhere she goes.
No one else is me, so I choose to make sure I inspire memories in others that will carry from one generation to the next. Fortunately, I don’t have to be famous in order for that to happen. All that is necessary is that the me that is attached to my version of Irene Frances Olson is memorable in a positive way.
Towards the end of 2018, I published a post celebrating the goodness that abounds all around us. Starting today and every Wednesday in 2019 I will post a Good News story I will have recently unearthed that I feel just might make your day…you know…to balance out all the bad news that permeates our world. I hope you enjoy my efforts at bringing a little light your way.
The first Good News story of 2019 spotlights a very generous person who hails from the greater Seattle area of Washington state. Last year, Alan Naiman, an extremely frugal social worker, learned he had terminal cancer and knowing he had very few months in which to live, decided to make a difference in the lives of many after he left this world as we know it. Please click on the link I have provided to read a very brief story about this fine person who, knowing you can’t take it with you, left what he had amassed to benefit others.
If I can’t do anything useful, at least I would like to do as little harm as possible. Wherever You Go, There You Are, by John Kabat-Zihn
Do no harm is a practice found in various aspects of society – including the Hippocratic Oath – and it was the underlying principle of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolution and his personal meditation practice. But what does it mean? Is it really as simple as doing no harm? You tell me.
Do no harm: Don’t do anything while driving that will piss off other drivers.
Do no harm: Don’t speak ill of others behind their back.
Do no harm: Don’t use social media to bully or anger an individual or a group of people.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the server or courtesy clerk who’s working as hard as he/she can for you. Engage them in conversation; make their day by respecting what they do.
Do no harm: Don’t be unkind to anyone; think of how it felt when someone was unkind to you.
Do no harm: Don’t litter or do anything that harms the environment, regardless of how small.
Do no harm: Don’t put off a kindness such as sending a card to someone for no reason at all – or for every reason you can think of. Your card and message may be just what that person needs that day.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the impulse to turn around to the person behind you while in line to say, “I’m not in a hurry, why don’t you go before me.” You may not be in a rush and he or she may be; think how your thoughtfulness will impact the remainder of their day.
Do no harm: Don’t keep compliments to yourself. For example, if your spouse or friend looks nice, tell him or her. It doesn’t do the person any good if you keep it to yourself. Your lack of attention may cause harm.
Do no harm: Don’t expect someone else to make a difference; you make a difference in whatever way you can, even if doing so is an inconvenience. Your inconvenience may be just what the world needs at that very moment in time.
Do no harm: What I have provided above barely scratches the surface of how we can do no harm. Please add your input in the comments section below to provide all of us with examples of how we might improve our personal corner of the world.
My wish for you: health, joy, and peace in the New Year.
A recent article in Parade Magazine spotlighted the efforts of older adults mentoring children on how to be good citizens. Specifically, Veterans and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients volunteer as mentors in schools across the nation.
The article emphasizes the point that parents and other adult family members should be the main source of such teaching – teachers have enough work to do just getting our children educated – but with a little bit of reinforcement at school, the lesson becomes that much more vital to the young learners. Read the rest of this entry »
I was touched by the following quote that appeared on Lark Kirkwood’s Elder Advocates site a few years ago:
Do all the good that you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways that you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as you can. – John Wesley
I want to add the following sentiment which has become a sort of mantra for the way I conduct myself:
We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems – not from above – but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously. – Grace Lee Boggs
I’m so encouraged by the different types of advocacy that I’ve witnessed across this nation. Some advocate for the elderly, some the disenfranchised or marginalized, others advocate for the humane treatment of animals. Whichever the focus – it’s all about advocacy. The good news is that whether a person lives in Redmond, Washington, like myself, or Washington, DC – we are all making a difference in each of our small corners of the Universe. Imagine if everyone did just that.
Instead of having the mindset that the only things worth doing are those which are grandiose and news worthy – and therefore believing that you have nothing to offer – do what you can, with what you have, and your impact will be grand. Many small, positive actions add up to great advances in the betterment of our world.
Regardless of your age, you can make a difference in the lives of others. If you’re looking for something to do, consider helping an elder or two. Let’s face it, unless death comes early for us, we’re all going to enter the elder category at some point in the future. You may someday benefit from someone else’s tender loving respect and care.