Last night I went over to Hospice to volunteer for a couple hours as a greeter, cookie-hander-outer, coffee cup cleaner-uper, and general chat-a-bout for their annual ‘Dealing with Grief over The Holidays’ talk. I especially like to go to events like these because 1) I learn so much, and 2) because it’s always nice to connect with members of the community who may just need someone to talk to for a minute or two.

I started off standing by the front door and casually greeting people as they came in, telling them where to hang their coats, and where to grab a warm drink in an effort to defrost. It was a pretty good turnout – about 30 people or so. Lots of people from all walks of life, all grieving someone they love very much: husbands, mothers, daughters, brothers… I was so glad they were all there. I noticed an elderly woman walk through the door, and I knew I recognized her from somewhere but just couldn’t place her. She made her way to the sitting room with the others, and sat quietly in the back. I kept stealing glances at her as I stood at the side of the room, but still couldn’t place her. How frustrating!

Then, after the talk ended, she made eye contact with me and smiled. I decided to swallow my pride, go over to her and admit that I knew her but could not remember her name. Luckily I didn’t have to do that at all, as she perked up and said, “you used to work at (such and such long term care home) as a social worker, didn’t you?” I replied that I did, and then it dawned on me who this lovely lady was. She grabbed my hand, re-introduced herself, and said, “I was a sobbing mess when I brought my husband in to stay at (such and such), and you were so good to me. You made me feel so much better, and I never got to thank you. I didn’t think I’d ever get through that day, but you took me aside and spent a long time with me, just letting me cry. I felt so embarrassed! But you didn’t judge me, and you just let me be a big, crying mess for as long as I wanted to be one. Thank you for that. You have no idea how much you helped me that day”.

Do you have any idea how hard it was for me not to start crying right then and there?! I told the lovely woman that it was my pleasure to help, and that I was glad to see that she had found Hospice as a place to turn after the recent death of her beloved husband who had lived to see their 50th wedding anniversary.

It’s the American Thanksgiving today, and I think I’d like to tread a little on their holiday to recognize being thankful (because being thankful should happen every single day, anyway). I am so very thankful that I was able to be in a position, through my chosen profession, where I made someone’s terrible day just a little bit less grey. We may never be fully aware just how much we helped someone, but it’s something that they’ll never forget.

It doesn’t get any better than that, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had to make a positive impact (however small) on people’s lives.

Very thankful, indeed.

Happy Thursday, and happy Thanksgiving.