Cherish Your Friends

This past spring as part of my Lenten discipline I took on something instead of giving up something. I had been thinking a lot about past friendships from college and graduate school and I realized I missed those people in my life. I decided I would take time to reach out and hopefully connect with six friends with whom I had lost contact. I was interested then to read of a study that encourages people to make those phone calls or send a text or email. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people often underestimate how much their friends and old acquaintances appreciate hearing from them.

“If there’s been someone that you’ve been hesitating to reach out to, that you’ve lost touch with perhaps, you should go ahead and reach out, and they’re likely to appreciate it much more than you think,” said Peggy Liu, the study’s lead author. The researchers conducted a series of 13 experiments with more than 5,900 participants to see if people could accurately estimate how much their friends value them reaching out and what forms of communication make the biggest impact. In these experiments, reaching out was defined as a phone call, text, email, note or small gift. The experiments found that initiators significantly underestimated the recipient’s reaction to the check-in.

“It’s often less about these kinds of grand overtures that we can make in our relationships and more about the small moments of letting a friend know that we’re thinking of them,” said Miriam Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist and friendship expert who was not involved in the study. A recipient appreciated the communication more when it was surprising, such as when it was from someone the recipient did not regularly contact or when the participant and recipient did not consider themselves to be close friends, the study found. “When you feel that sense of positive surprise,” Liu said, “it really further boosts the appreciation that you feel.”

Relationships, including friendships, can be one of the strongest predictors of how healthy we are and how long we live, and they can boost our overall well-being. During the pandemic we certainly found that when we are disconnected and isolated from our friends and loved ones we suffer from increased anxiety and depression. We know that friendships require nourishment and after leaving college and graduate school I had starved the relationships which had meant so much to me. Most of the six friends I reached out to live in other states and one lives out of the country. I was able to see the friends that live here in person and the others I spoke to on the phone. With each one it was fun to hear their voice and catch up on where they are at in life. Just as the study found, each person I talked to appreciated the fact that I had reached out to renew our friendship. My intention now is to feed those friendships and keep them alive. Who are the friends that you might reach out to?

The Reality of Good News

T.S. Eliot once wrote humankind ‘cannot bear very much reality.’ I think the point he was trying to make is usually misunderstood, but, I thought of those words when I recently heard that number of people avoiding news-media has doubled in the last five years.

As a child I remember my Grandma ensuring that she watched both the lunchtime and evening television news bulletins, as well as having a national newspaper delivered in the morning and a local newspaper delivered each evening. Gone now is that rhythm for most people. According to a recent poll, only 17% now read a physical newspaper daily. Only 53% watch TV news bulletins. Its often discussed that smaller percentages of people are engaging with professionally produced, politically neutral news, and ceasing to distinguish it from passing entertainment or editorial comment. Perhaps T.S. Eliot was right when he famously wrote that humankind ‘cannot bear very much reality.’ But not all news is bad. When the evangelist Mark began to write his book, he started out with ‘The beginning of the gospel…’ which means ‘good news’. The start of the good news. That book talks about suffering, tragedy, in-fighting, occupation and political intrigue among many other things. So did he make a mistake? Did Mark forget what he said he was supposed to be writing about? For those who read that book, as well as the other books of our scriptures, it is important to remember that story of good news is set, not in a fairytale land where life is tranquil and charming, but rather in reality. And that is what makes it such good news. The news that causes us to see beyond the day-to-day difficulties, and to know the reality of God’s love for each of us. It is a knowledge of that love which led Mark to start his book by highlighting to 2000 years of readers, that that love is good and transformative. Hundreds of years before that, Isaiah knew the same to be true as he wrote “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and transformation”. May we hear that message of love, peace and transformation today. For that is the reality of a life of faith. T.S Elliot was right, we cannot bear too much reality. But perhaps that is because we all need to take a break from the bad news – to rediscover what the good news of love means for each of us.

Things That Can Be Equally True

One of the many challenging aspects of living is to understand and experience that two seemingly opposing things can be true. This life lesson doesn’t come easily however, because as humans, we like to keep things simple. Black and white, either or. Our brains are designed to put things into nice, neat, and uncomplicated categories. This sorting and categorizing serves an important purpose: it’s a lot easier for us to interact with our world this way. Everything seems to settle into a nice category. Happiness and sadness. Good people and bad people. Healthy food and unhealthy food. True and false. Jean Piaget, a prolific child development researcher and psychologist suggests that when new information comes into our brains, we have two options: fit it nicely into an existing category or schema (assimilation) or do a complete overhaul of the categories to fit the new information (accommodation). At some point each of us realizes that our world is not so simple and our categories do not seem to fully encapsulate our experiences with life.

Embracing the “AND” or holding two ideas at once can be very freeing. Think about holding these truths: You are resilient AND you need a break, you are kind AND have boundaries, others have it worse AND your pain is valid, you are independent AND you still need others, you can be sad and grieving AND relieved and joyful, you are strong AND you need support, you can be sure about something AND change your mind, you are sad sometimes AND you are happy. Someone has suggested that perhaps that’s why we have two hands—to be able to hold the complexity of feelings and experiences of life. Dual feelings and beliefs can be equally true. One of them doesn’t cancel out the other. Writer and podcaster Tsh Oxenreider says it this way: “Two opposing things can be equally true. Counting the days till Christmas doesn’t mean we hate Halloween. I go to church on Sundays, and still hold the same faith at the pub on Saturday night. I shamelessly play a steady stream of eighties pop music and likewise have an undying devotion to Chopin. And perhaps most significantly: I love to travel and I love my home.” Somehow it seems that as we get older life presents to us many more nuanced, gray areas that don’t fit into nice, neat, black and white categories. Sometimes we need to be easy on ourselves and others, we are all just doing our best! We can celebrate AND be challenged by the fact that we are complex, loving, impassioned individuals that deserve to feel a range of emotions without judgement from ourselves or others.

The Return of Premier Hearing!

The Beatitudes Campus Wellness Center is proud to announce the return of Premier Hearing! Premier Hearing will be on campus every 3rd Thursday from 8-11:30AM. On campus services include inspections for ear wax build-up, battery sales, hearing aid cleaning and tubing changes. Additionally, hearing tests will be performed in their sound proof booth at their office located at 9th Street and McDowell. To schedule services on campus in the Wellness Center or to schedule a hearing test off campus call 602-253-3532. Campus transportation to off campus hearing tests is available by calling x16135.

Love Goes Where It Is Needed

Yesterday I was reading a book by Evelyn Underhill. She was a nineteenth century poet, novelist, and a theologian. One bit of this book in particular stood out to me. She wrote this about love, that “Love is creative. It does not flow along the easy paths, spending itself in the attractive. It cuts new channels, goes where it is needed. Love goes where it is needed.” In the New Testament scriptures, we hear something else about love – that ‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’. Paired together these two insights make a remarkable statement: That God is made known to us as love when we need it most.

So where do we need love most?

Well perhaps we need love most in the parts of us that are broken, or hurting, or afraid; the parts of us that we often don’t want to acknowledge ourselves, and sometimes struggle to share with God. But that is where God is. Exactly where we need Love to be,
– with us in our vulnerability, where and when we need God the most, cutting new channels into our hearts. Abiding with us. Staying with us always. Evelyn Underhill knew that love went where it was needed by the person of Jesus, and the first letter of John explains how she could know that; “God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which we are made whole. Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another” So let’s go and do that – let’s go and love as we know that God is loving us.

Time and Age

I was touched by a recent Facebook post that shares about things we learn through time and age: Read it through to the end, it gets better as you go!

I’ve learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night”. Age 5

I’ve learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either. Age 7

I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. Age 9

I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up again. Age 12

I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up. Age 14

I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. Age 15

I’ve learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24

I’ve learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures. Age 26

I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there.
Age 29

I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 30

I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it. Age 42

I’ve learned that you can make someone’s day by simply sending them a little note.
Age 44

I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. Age 46

I’ve learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 47

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow. Age 48

I’ve learned that singing “Amazing Grace” can lift my spirits for hours. Age 49

I’ve learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone. Age 50

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. Age 51

I’ve learned that keeping a vegetable garden is worth a medicine cabinet full of pills. Age 52

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. Age 53

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. Age 58

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. Age 62

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back. Age 64

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you. Age 65

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. Age 66

I’ve learned that everyone can use a prayer. Age 72

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. Age 74

I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch – holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. Age 76

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Age 78

I’ve learned that you lose family and friends over time, so make new friends and remember the good times. Age 80

I’ve learned that you should pass this on to someone you care about. Sometimes they just need a little something to make them smile.

Reports of My Leaving are Greatly Exaggerated

To deliberately misquote Mark Twain – ‘the reports of my leaving the campus are greatly exaggerated’! I am however happy to share with you that I shall be taking short periods away from my usual schedule to take part in the 2022 LeadingAge Leadership Academy. A number of other campus staff members are alumni of this same program, and I’m very excited to take part myself. Over the coming year the academy cohort will meet communities both similar and different to our own, as well as online, sharing our own experiences whilst we delve into the various ways (and contexts) in which best practices of leadership can be applied to real-world settings within and outside of the field of aging services.

And yes… there will be homework to complete as well! In preparing my application for the program I was asked to write a brief account of my thoughts on the current perception of communities such as our campus, as well as my vision for how to develop and build upon the strong foundations which have stood us in good stead for almost 60 years. Seen as I was writing about you, I think its only fair to share a small portion of what I wrote; ‘…I suspect that if one were to ask the average person in the street what life is like in a retirement community that the words such as sleepy, boring and death would be found amongst the responses – whereas a more accurate description would include the words LifeLong Learning, community, choice and living!’

Growing in experience and understanding of how to expand upon that reality and dispel those conceptions is at the heart of the LeadingAge organization, and our campus life together, and so I look forward to returning home with tales to tell and experiences to share. But I shall be coming back.. and in fact I doubt you’ll notice that I’m gone.

State of the Campus – November 14

I want to thank all of you – residents, families and staff – for your dedication and steadfast support throughout the past twenty months. We have all witnessed the massive impact that COVID has had on all of us – from social distancing, to masks, to vaccines to families being separated and reunited. Our thoughts and prayers go out daily to everyone who has been impacted by this virus, directly or indirectly.

Much has happened this year regarding COVID-19 vaccines, both nationally and locally. Just think, a year ago we didn’t even have a vaccine and now more than 7.8 billion doses globally have been administered. The science and data clearly point to the vaccine’s critical role in protecting ourselves and each other from severe illness and hospitalization. The safety of our residents, families and staff members is and always will be our number one priority. It is for this reason that we announced our vaccine requirement for staff, in addition to the fact that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) required staff in our organization be vaccinated or apply for an exemption. Without this requirement, we would lose our ability to accept Medicare payments.

While we are disappointed to lose any of our dedicated staff due to this issue, we know that vaccine choice is a personal decision. We hear in the media so much about vaccine hesitancy and the passionate opposition to a vaccine requirement. What we don’t hear about is the voice of all the people who are the “silent majority” who think that the vaccines are important – to protect themselves and those around them. What is especially meaningful to me are those who choose to live our mission and our values to keep each other safe by getting vaccinated if they are able. I have received stacks of emails and letters from staff, families and residents who applaud the vaccine requirement, who feel safer because of it and who feel like they can move forward without the fear of COVID.

I want to lift up our Beatitudes Strong family, and especially the staff members who have been with us through this pandemic. I am very touched and proud of how our staff stepped up even more than usual to engage in acts of generosity and support. They are heroes in every way. They exemplify an amazing power of positivity and kindness, especially throughout the past months. They came to work every day while their children or loved ones were learning or working from home. They put their career dreams on hold to pivot for our residents – to deliver meals and Roadrunners door-to-door, to screen each other and visitors for COVID symptoms, to shop for groceries and to help with infection control. They worked long hours to figure out Zoom and the community channel and to figure out how to video so that our residents wouldn’t feel disconnected. More than a few staff lost loved ones or had family members who were ill. Most staff couldn’t even visit their families and have in-person support. Yet, they came to work every day (and still do!) to serve our residents cheerfully. Our staff supported each other, too, in so many ways, too – to lend a hand at work, to crack a joke, to bake cookies or bring lunch to a colleague, to help each other when we were exhausted. I am so proud of our team – they are the shining example of Beatitudes Strong! Please, when you walk past them on the sidewalk or meet with them or see them in the Bistro, give them a hearty thank you for all that they have done – and all that they will do.

Beatitudes Campus staff are now 90.1% vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine. We approved religious or medical exemptions for 4.9% of the staff. We have not heard of the intention to be vaccinated for 5% of the staff. Eight staff members chose to leave their jobs. I am so proud of our staff.

This week, we unfortunately have had three staff members test positive for COVID-19 – one support staff in Assisted Living, one support staff from Facilities and one direct care worker in the Health Care Center. All were vaccinated and all of them were exposed outside of campus and subsequently got the virus. All are doing well.

I want to wish all of our veterans a Happy Veterans Day. I salute the men and women who have fought for our country and for our democracy and thank them for their service. Our veterans are the epitome of dedication, selflessness and resilience. Thank you. Stay strong!

Michelle Just, President and CEO

Only God Can Make a Tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

– “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

This poem is what my mind kept returning to as I visited San Antonio a few weeks ago. I was there to see my Aunt and do some sightseeing around the city and my eyes and heart were drawn to the beautiful trees there. More than once I had the urge to climb the branches of a few of them, but resisted only because I may have gotten myself kicked out of places like the Alamo and the San Jose Mission if I attempted such shenanigans.

There were beautiful tall oak trees all over with their large armed branches twisting and turning as they reached ever outward and upward. Within their twiggy fingers they held air plants which reminded me of tiny unfinished birds’ nests.

At the Alamo there was a huge pecan tree that was planted in 1850 by the explorer and rancher Peter Gallagher. It is the oldest tree on the property and is called a “pampered princess’ by the Alamo horticulturalist because it is treated so well by all the caretakers. Being over 80 feet tall I would say this pampered princess is very well taken care of and adored by more than just the squirrels.

I have always found myself feeling closest to God when I am in nature and amongst the trees. There is something about a large ancient tree that not only reminds me of the Creator, but shows me who I should strive to be as well. Standing strong and sturdy against the elements. A sentry, offering a place of respite without judgment in the shade of its leaves and the strength of its limbs. Reaching skyward towards the sun with a quiet grace knowing, that no matter what happens, all shall be well.

Nature is a spiritual place created completely from seed to towering tree by God and for me it is sometimes the best sanctuary for prayer. May we all be able to appreciate and enjoy the blessings we can find every day in nature.

Commemorating Veterans Day

Each year in November the commemoration of Veterans Day gives us a time to stop and pause to remember and honor the sacrifices of those who have served in our armed forces. And what could be more appropriate than to read and reflect on excerpts from the following article “What is a Vet?” by a veteran, Father Denis Edward O’Brien. (I found the article among papers saved by my late husband Ed. Both he and Father O’Brien served in the U. S. Marine Corps in the South Pacific in WWII.)

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service, a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye, a piece of shrapnel in the leg—or perhaps another sort of inner steel: The soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell a vet just by looking. So what is a vet?

  • He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.
  • She or he is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang
  • He is the POW who went away one person and came back another—or didn’t come back at all.
  • He is the three anonymous heroes in the Tomb of the Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deeps
  • He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket—palsied now and aggravatingly slow—who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when nightmares come.
  • They are ordinary and yet extraordinary human beings—individuals who offered some of their most vital years in the service of their country, and who sacrificed their ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice their own.

So remember each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say “Thank You.”

As we remember veterans no longer with us with gratitude in our hearts and reach out to thank veterans still in our lives, we commemorate this Veterans Day with a special, heartfelt thanks to all veterans in our Beatitudes Campus community. Thank you for your service, indeed!

Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

Many Native Americans and their supporters like myself recognize the importance of celebrating the history and contributions of ALL AMERICANS, but there has to be a better way to honor Italian Americans, without associating them with Christopher Columbus.
I hope that we could find a reasonable compromise to satisfy all parties involved moving forward.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore. “Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh. “Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice. “We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”

Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”

Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house. Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?” “We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.” “Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better. Because Pooh and Piglet were There. No more; no less. (A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard)

This is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. The goal is to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. It can be frightening if someone you love talks about suicidal thoughts. It can be even more frightening if you find yourself thinking about dying or giving up on life. Not taking these kinds of thoughts seriously can have devastating outcomes, as suicide is a permanent solution to (often) temporary problems.

Did you know?

  • 78% of all people who die by suicide are male.
  • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4x more likely to die by suicide.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999.
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
    • 4.8% of all adults
    • 11.8% of young adults aged 18-25
    • 18.8% of high school students
    • 46.8% of lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students

If you or someone you know are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)

You also have crisis resources available here on campus that will connect you to the treatment and support you need. Call Chaplain Peggy (X16109) or Chaplain Andrew (X18481) or Josephine Levy (X16117) and Jessica Meyer from Success Matters (X16110) or speak to any staff member and they will help you find the support you need.