How to Add the Greatest Good Each Day
Each day starts with the question, “How can I best use my gifts and abilities in service today, for my greatest good and the greatest good of all?” In other words, how can I make the world a better place? The answers don’t always unfold as I think they should. Although I often can’t see how what I’m doing is having any effect, my role is to trust, do my best, and let go of my attachment to outcome.
Besides, who am I to know what the greatest good even is? For that matter, how do I even know what my greatest good is?
“The land has stories you need to hear and share,” I heard at Writing-On-Stone Park and that’s kept me walking on the beautiful natural landscapes near my home. Initially, I thought the message represented the cry of the earth from an ecological perspective. Now I take it to extend to all living beings.
Over the winter I’ve walked hundreds of miles, listening and gathering disparate stories. I may head out with a specific question that I’m seeking guidance for that day. Or, I may just start my walk by asking how I can best be of service to that land.
Now that I’ve had my first vaccination, the call has come from a different direction. My mom is in a Long-Term Care (LTC) residence, a four-hour round trip away. The province of Ontario allows each LTC resident to designate two (non-staff) essential caregivers who may provide direct care. These are the only visitors allowed. In collaboration with my siblings, we designated my sister, who lives nearby, and me. Even so, in weighing the risks and benefits, we decided to suspend our in-person visits last October. That Mom receives excellent care and is generally content made the decision easier to make.
Vaccination, my first and Mom’s full, has changed the risk-benefit analysis. After my first post-October visit a week ago, I decided to try and tend to her twice a week.
It was a struggle to uproot two days of solitary walking in nature and insert eight hours of highway traffic every week. But aside from spending invaluable time with my mother, when I ask how can I best use my gifts in service, the answer is clear. Our time together is not only precious but mutually beneficial.
Before my visit I check in with the nursing staff to let them know I’ll be in and ask what I can do to ease their workload that evening.
It is such a gift to have the time and the skills to care for her as a daughter and a former nurse. I tell her that as I feed her the mush that’s on that evening’s menu. This time it’s an extra treat. My brother has made ham and split-pea soup and pureed it for her. Sometimes she rolls her eyes when I get too mushy. Other times, she responds from her heart and mumbles something like, “Me, too.”
After a prolonged meal, it’s time to get ready for bed. She smiles when I place a warm cloth on her face and hands before massaging them. Then it’s time to rub the size 9N feet that have walked more miles than I’ll likely ever see. She sits across from me in her wheelchair as we place one foot at a time into my lap. Care staff simply don’t have time for these luxuries.
Usually, she’s quite chatty, easily moving between German and English. I’ve been practicing German on Duolingo for more than a year and my forgotten first language is coming back nicely. Whichever language she speaks, I don’t comprehend the direct meaning but the message usually comes through. I tell her it’s such a gift to be able to do this for her. She looks at me from her heart and nods her head. “Thank you,” she says, her voice strong and clear.
When the Personal Support Workers make their bedtime rounds, she’s already in her nightie so they use the lift to assist her onto the toilet and from there to bed. I massage her back, taking me back to my hospital nursing days when everyone got a back rub at bed time. I pull the duvet up and tuck it in around her neck. We would have read but she’s already sound asleep.
The health of all depends on the health of each of us. There are so many things that need our attention and we each have unique gifts to offer towards the greatest good. Use them! You can’t go wrong.
What does your loved one need to help her settle for the night?
What can help alleviate the workload on a front line worker?
What does a forest need to sustain itself?
What does the planet need to return to health and wholeness?
Whether you’re caring for your loved ones, reducing your consumption of nonrenewable resources, or extending kindness and compassion to a stranger in need, you’ll make a difference.