12 July 2017

Mansion Notes: On Giving And Letting Go

Giving And Letting Go

By now, thousands of you have sent thousands of things to the Mansion residents, and I think it's important that I explain some things to people who are so generous and loving in order to be helpful. More and more, I am getting messages and e-mails from people who are concerned because some of their letters have not been responded to, or some of their questions about gifts have not been answered.

They are understandably concerned about whether or not they should continue sending things or corresponding.  People want to know that their gifts are received. I see Mansion residents and the staff working every day to acknowledge as many of these letters as they can.

But it is not possible or realistic to think every message can be responded to or that conversations and dialogues will not be interrupted or delayed.

People often write me, or Maria, to ask if someone as received their package or letter or if they should continue to correspond with the residents.  They ask questions that are not often or always answered.

These are perfectly understandable questions and concerns, but I need to offer some perspective about how I handle these issues in the hope it might be helpful and so people will understand the reality there.

When you send a letter or gift to the Mansion residents, it is essential that you adjust your expectations to the nature of the place, as I have. I never expect any kind of response or acknowledgement of anything I give or bring or send. The residents live in wildly varying states of health, energy, awareness, consciousness and memory.

The Mansion is a special place, the care there is unusually warm and at a high standard. But it is a place for frail, sick and vulnerable people. They are often not in a position to respond to the outside world, they are quite preoccupied with surviving.

Some will read a message and forget. Others may be overwhelmed by even five or six messages in a day. Some have no pens or envelopes. Their rooms are small, they can store few things.

There is no simple way for them to respond in many cases. One resident asks who I am every time I turn the corner even if I have talked her and identified myself a few minutes ago. I give her things all the time she can't remember even ten minutes later. Others can't recall if they answered a message or not. Some can.

Sometimes, they are just not feeling well. These are people at the edge of life, they have great hearts and good manners, but life can be overwhelming for them.

Their schedules vary. Some go to doctors often, many go to the hospital for a day or two and return. Some need to sleep for hours or take medications that affect their awareness.  Some sleep for much of the day.

The staff is small and overworked, they cannot monitor individual messages or gifts, know how they are received, follow who is responding or how. They do a wonderful job of distributing them and seeing they get where they are supposed to go.

Working in the Mansion, I see how much suffering and frailty there is there, I do not ever expect people to know who I am or what I am doing as soon as they see me, and I have many good friends there now. Very often, people ask me Red's name even if they saw him a minute earlier. Some ask me every time if he is for sale, if that is why I am bringing him.

I have to introduce myself and re-introduce myself all the time. Red, on the other hand, tends to be more easily remembered, if not always  by name. The things I bring are for me, they make me feel human and worthwhile, to expect anything else would be to curry disappointment and put pressure on helpless people.

Materials at the Mansion are limited – this is a Medicaid facility, and there are few dollars lying around for supplies. The Mansion doesn't provide writing materials or postage, so sometimes the residents can't respond even if they want so. I have brought supplies to the residents, but they vanish quickly and many simply don't have the time or energy. Some try very hard to answer every message, I can tell you they love these messages and read them carefully and share them religiously. They truly matter.

When I give something to the Mansion, I practice the discipline of giving and letting go. I do not look for acknowledgements or thank yous.  I never ask if  something was received or expect a dialogue or send something or ask a question that demands a response. That is too much like pressure, it is asking more than many people there can give or offer, much as they would like to.

One Mansion resident who loves getting letters was in the hospital for two days, and could not catch up with all of the old letters and read the new ones. She says she will get to them later, "on a rainy day." I think she will, but she might forget. Or a relative might come and clean up the room and throw old letters out. One stroke victim can only read two letters a day and can't write letters in response, but he loves his letters.

I should explain that Maria has her own work and missions, she does not come to the Mansion regularly and cannot possibly monitor individual messages or know if they are received.

I go to the Mansion often with Red and I can't do that either. I have never been photographed doing work in the Mansion, so I understand why people might get confused. I wouldn't monitor these messages if I could. Gifts, I know, can only given as an end unto itself, not with any kind of expectation in return, however understandable the expectation is.

Your messages and letters and photos and cards have been the most meaningful and valuable contribution, and please know they are treasured. But like the Dalai Lama says, giving is a lesson in letting go. It is gift to the giver.

Once the gift leaves me, it is gone from my consciousness and awareness, I move on to the next thing. I see the gifts, like photos, as angels and cherubs heading out into the ether. They have their own life apart from me.

Beyond that, they are in the hands of the fates and the gods and goddesses and angels and cherubs. And thank you so much for sending them, and please continue if you can.

I hope this is helpful for you.

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