Every week I meet people who want to give up. Yes, some want to throw in the towel and call it a life. Others simply slump discouraged and defeated unsure of how to move forward. I get it. I’ve been there enough times myself and it’s one of the reasons I write about resiliency and bending on to make a steady comeback.
During my weekly hospital pet therapy visits with Maisie, I meet with dozens of nurses, doctors and admin staff, in addition to patients and their families and friends. One word stands out from my volunteer work with my collie girl. Perspective. It’s long been one of my favorite words and maybe it will be on my memorial stone someday.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, perspective means: point of view; a mental view or prospect; the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance. I particularly like that last definition. How we all need the capacity to see things in their true connection or importance to other problems and opportunities in our life.
Perspective is the word I mull over as I rush from my work to the hospital. So what if the traffic is jammed and I show up a few minutes delayed from my ideal starting time? (I’m a volunteer who can set my own hours, so just chill.)
Perspective is the word I mull over as Maisie and I meet with a wide assortment of people throughout the hospital floors. Guests in the lobby. Patients in wheelchairs pushing down hallways. Nurses taking patients’ vital signs. Foodservice staff delivering dinners. Last week was one of my toughest yet most rewarding times at the hospital.
The Delightful Octogenarian
Maisie and I interacted with so many patients with significant challenges—suicide survivor, leg amputee, stroke patient unable to talk . . . and an 80-something elderly woman who is blind (we’ll call her Ruby). Because of patient confidentiality, I can only show Ruby’s arm in these photos.
You should have seen this delightful octogenarian connect with Maisie bedside. Ruby kept stroking Maisie’s head and collar and commenting, “She’s so soft! My, she’s so soft!” Without being able to see my collie girl, Ruby reveled in being able to run her fingers and whole hand through Maisie’s coat. Tactile therapy is incredible to behold with hospital patients.
I tell you, my world certainly stopped for those 15 minutes visiting with Ruby. Although Ruby wore dark sunglasses in her dim room, perhaps because her diseased eyes were sensitive to any form of light, she “saw” love and gentleness through stroking Maisie. Ruby “saw” kindness through my listening intently to her stories of her own dogs over the decades. And Ruby “saw” hope as we talked of her maybe getting her own guide dog someday.
Love. Gentleness. Kindness. Hope. We can all use those traits in our busy, messy world these days. Whenever I get tense over my daily pressures, my pet therapy volunteering nudges me with fresh perspective.
When Maisie and I leave the hospital on Mondays, I find myself marveling that while I have challenges in my own life, I feel like I don’t have a problem in the world. I didn’t just lose my leg or try to take my life. I am not relearning to talk after a stroke. I am not blind.
Thank you, Ruby, for reminding me that having eyes that physically see is not the only way to experience life more fully. Perspective. Perspective.