Making a Difference

Where is the Joy in Alzheimer's Caregiving?

By Beverly Bigtree Murphy, MS, CRC, Caregiver I took care of my husband, Tom, at home through the duration of his years with Alzheimer’s. I did it with private home health care, respite breaks for short vacations, and what amounted...
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It Takes a Dream to Make a Village

Don and Carolyn wanted to create a microcosm of what the world could be, one that would reflect the principles of their Bahai faith. Children from around the globe living together in the woods of Vermont. Cultures colliding and merging within tents, under stars and around fires, night after night. Fears forgotten while hauling water, paddling canoes, and sharing meals prepared over an open fire. Friendships sprouting in all colors and fellowship blossoming in the glorious and diverse face of nature. Unity within diversity was the opportunity and the lesson. They wanted to create a microcosm of what the world could be. And they did.
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Giving Children Smiles: Dr. William Magee

I think it's fair to say that plastic surgery is an outcropping of a privileged culture. But Magee has found a way to use his privilege to help others, transforming first-world-guilt into compassionate action. Perhaps there is an opportunity for service in any situation and all we have to do is look for it.
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Making a Difference: Two Departed Heroes

Oseola McCarty, age 88, gave herself a promotion--from laundrywoman to philanthropist. She did this by giving $150,000--the bulk of her life savings--to charity. You may wonder how a laundrywoman saves $150,000. When she was a child, she dreamed of becoming a nurse. But she had to leave school after the sixth grade to care for a sick aunt and she never returned. Instead she took in laundry, initially charging $1.50 a bundle, then raising her price as time went on. When she had a little extra money, she saved it. She lived a very frugal life, walking everywhere rather than buying a car and using a black and white TV with only one working channel. Oh well, she didn't watch much TV anyway. She opened a savings account in First Mississippi National Bank. It grew with a little money her mother, aunt and grandmother left her when they died. The bank merged and changed names and McCarty expanded her investments to CD's and a few conservative mutual funds. By the time she was in her 80's, she had built up a nice little nest egg. She decided to give it away.
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Post Office Rose

Curious, I introduced myself, and asked her if she grew the roses as well as arranged them. Yes, she replied smiling, she was also the president, vice president and secretary of this endeavor: Her name is Miriam C. Spaulding and she has brought her own homegrown roses to the post office for twelve years. She is known locally as The Rose Lady. Shyly she mentions that other people have told her that they go out of their way to visit this branch because of the flowers. She views her service to the community as nothing special, just a habit she began when she worked nearby. I ask her if she has other habits like this. Yes, she also likes to send what she calls "rosey notes." These are cards she sends to thank people who have done their jobs well. She considers gratitude the "most needed" of human feelings.
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A Place Called Home

... [Debrah Constance] ... opened A Place Called Home in three rooms of a church, with one volunteer and a few hundred dollars. "Twelve children showed up and agreed to the terms of our contract: no weapons, no drugs, no graffiti." Today they have their own 10,000 square foot building, with more than 300 kids stopping by every day. The facility now includes its own school, in addition to a library, computer lab, recording studio and a small staff of devoted workers and volunteers. There are opportunities for doll-making, poetry, kick boxing and yoga.
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The Old and the Young

Kozol advocates for a cross-generational alliance, played out in schools, church basements and Head Start centers. He urges us to "seize golden moments" with these children, who still have sparks of innocence, who in the midst of ugliness and danger still have the magic of childhood within. "When I was younger, I thought the problem was lack of information: if the nation knew, it would act. Now I believe it's more a lack of moral will to act on what we know already. I try to write as a witness: This is how it is. This is how innocent children are forced to live."
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A Clean Shawsheen

"If I spend $70 on cleaning up the river, many people think it's such a big deal. But if I spend $70 to play 18 holes of golf, no one would blink an eye." And Bob's point is well taken. We tend to think about work and play as separate animals altogether. To spend one's leisure time hauling trash from a river does not fit with the common image of recreation or hobby. But what makes work and play so distinguishable? Is play pure fun? For even the most avid gardener, there can be scorching heat, black flies and mosquitos, disappointments, frustrations, and sore muscles. For Bob this hobby makes sense. He loves canoeing and rivers, the beauty and fresh air, the sun and the shade, the exercise, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, and the sense of camaraderie. One of the main differences between this and serious gardening, for example, is that there are no visible, tangible improvements in Bob's own life. His yard looks the same and he has nothing to actually show for his time and efforts. Just that the river is running healthier and freer.
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The Friendly Flash

It takes a presence of mind to flash those beams at a moment's notice. It takes an immediate shift of attention to the needs of approaching strangers and away from one's own private and personal experience. It takes a willingness to help a fellow traveler, with no reward or recognition. Thanks for averting a possible disaster, whoever you are. And for reminding us opportunities to make a difference may arise in an instant. Then they're gone. In a flash.
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The Taking of Life and the Giving of Life

Meghan's organs have saved the lives of five people. Kristin Gabrielson, now 29, left that hospital room and has never felt healthier in her life. With Meghan's lungs, she has been able to resume a full life, and is now a medical secretary, building her life with a special man, Chris Nelson, who was also at death's door several years earlier. In a coma for eight days, expected to die within 24 hours, he instead woke up with Meghan's liver. The couple met at an organ donation symposium and are bonded together in a special way by Meghan and her parents. "Chris and I believe there has to be a reason why we survived and finally came together."
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Healthful Meals Aim to Restore Health

If you'd like to sample some of the east coast's best vegetarian fare you might try Angelica's Kitchen, the famous vegan restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village. The menu might include broccoli soup with roasted red pepper sauce, millet tempeh croquettes, coleslaw with horseradish dressing and maybe poached pears in raspberry sauce for dessert. Coincidentally you might find the same meal being prepared in the kitchen of the Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side by a group of gourmet chefs. The recipients of these culinary delicacies have something in common—compromised immune systems threatened by illnesses like AIDS, Cancer and Heart Disease.
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Nothing But Nets

Willie Naulls seems to have found the common ground between attention, kids, basketball and God. Naulls grew up in a section of LA. known as Watts and while many of those around him succumbed to drugs or crime, he went on to become an All American Basketball player at UCLA and later an all-star forward with the New York Knicks from 1956-1962. When he retired from basketball he purchased an auto dealership in LA, married a gynecologist and had four kids. He could have spent the rest of his life in comfort but one day he heard a voice which turned him in another direction. Within two months he left his business, enrolled in a seminary and was later ordained a minister. He then established a church and leased a group of buildings that had been part of a defense plant in a rough part of LA.
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Wholesaler to the Hungry

Peter Clarke, Ph.D. and Susan Evans, Ph.D. are trying to direct traffic–raw food traffic. Six years ago they met a retired produce wholesaler named Mickey Weiss who was giving away perfectly edible fruits because of cosmetic imperfections. He was giving away over a million pounds of produce a month to charities in Southern California. It made so much sense to Clark and Evans that they founded Wholesaler to the Hungry to redirect such produce to low-income people all over the country.
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The Noticing of Bags

Ian Frazier and his buddies Tim and Bill McClelland used to spend their free time enjoying a round of golf. Now they pay attention to bags. In trees. And when they see them, they get them. Notice what needs to be done. And do it. They don't exactly say that. They just do it.
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The Naturally Constructive Life of Scott Nearing

Scott and Helen Nearing's version of "The Good Life," as America's homesteading heroes, is a highly individualistic one. The form and texture of their lives are alien to many of us who spend more time with buttons, keypads and switches than with soil or stone. Yet the foundation on which their lives were built is not only familiar, but consistent with many Constructive Living principles. Their vision, which was fervently developed and documented for more than half a century, was based on purpose, work, simplicity, service, and commitment.
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Visas for Life... A Japanese Schindler

There is no way to purely and simply know Sugihara's motivation, or anyone's motivation for that matter. But it seems likely that the ability to put oneself in another's shoes forms the foundation of compassion, and is therefore one of the most important skills to develop, if goodness can be cultivated at all. Thank you, Chiune Sugihara, for the example you set during that month in August, so long ago. It serves, on the grandest of scales, as an exquisite reminder of the importance of cultivating compassion.
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Keeping the Torch Lit

Dr. Jinroh Itami is the founder of Meaningful Life Therapy in Japan, an educational and inspirational program for cancer patients whose motto is, "I will not live like a sick person." In this article, Dottie Lessard O'Connor displays the same courage and fighting spirit we see in many of Dr. Itami's cancer patients.
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