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My View: Aging gracefully means being grateful for help

By Cathy Tallady

I’ve been appearing in this column for the past 10 years, so perhaps some faithful readers feel they know me. And obviously I’ve grown older, though I like the phrase “I’ve matured” better. And I’m thinking it may be time to share my new way of looking at life.

My body is giving out, my back hurts and I lose my balance easily, so I need to be very careful. But I know I cannot give up, even though I hurt. And that takes willpower – lots of it.

On the other hand I must not keep doing things that are dangerous, just because of pride.

I was explaining this to a friend and she quipped with a grin, “Do what you can for as long as you can but don’t be stupid about it.”

My dad was less blunt when he once told me, “Growing old is learning to give up things gracefully.” He never described “gracefully,” so I’m trying to figure it out.
I still try to do many things to keep my independence. But now I know I must ask for help – and be grateful when it comes, without embarrassment.

I can’t believe it, but at this exact moment as I sit in my chair writing I happened to look out my window and saw a man I didn’t know walking across my front lawn.

He was picking up branches and twigs the recent windstorm deposited. I opened the front door to acknowledge him and to ask who he was and to thank him. He’s my next-door neighborhood whom I never met.

I went back to my writing, thinking he’d just been going for a walk and had stopped to pick up a few sticks. An hour later I looked out my window and he was still there – and a huge mound of sticks was piled up at the street.

This time I went out to my patio to meet him. He came and sat down and I gratefully thanked him again. He waved it off by telling me it was a nice day and he just liked to be outdoors with something to do.

An act of kindness, brushed off by him but one I will never forget.

There are others. People who open doors when I need help. And other times when I seem to falter. I was carrying some heavy books from the library when a woman coming toward me simply said, “God bless you.”

I must never be offended by such words and deeds of kindness, even though my ego might be easily bruised.

I do have an aide and a man who fixes things around my house. I pay them to help, but they both go above and beyond what I ask, and I love them for it.
Still, the question remains: When to give up “gracefully” and still be comfortable. What works now for me is the knowledge that the act of helping others makes people feel good. I know this because it has happened to me when I’ve helped others in the past.

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, called it “selfish altruism.” The Bible says it another way; “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I’m comfortable believing this.

But there’s one more thing I need to add. I must always give sincere thanks to those who help in an immediate thank you. And later a written note that can be held in one’s hand and maybe reread so the recipient feels “blessed.”

It’s taken me some time to gather all these thoughts and then put them in writing – and if you’ve read this far, thank you for hanging in there with me!

Cathy Tallady, of Lewiston, is comforted knowing that helping others makes people feel good.
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