Gus came of age as a therapy dog today, he fell asleep in Connie's lap.
Some good things happened to Connie today. I mentioned the other day that she was running out of mysteries, and I brought her over my first mystery, "Death By Station Wagon." I got a call from Battenkill Books that a member of the Army Of Good, Denise from Indiana, had called and ordered five mysteries by Louise Penny, a great choice for Connie.
I took them right over. Connie has some long days to fill in that chair, even when she starts knitting again. It will be easier now.
I know that some other mysteries are on the way, so I think she's okay for now, and thanks. Soap and shampoo and body wash are still pouring into the Mansion, I think we're okay there also, and thanks for those things as well. They really matter.
Connie was surprised to learn that I wrote a mystery series once, when I was trying to survive as a writer back when government functioned some of the time.
We also brought Gus and Red into see Connie, she and Red have a beautiful thing, Connie pets and rubs his shoulders and eventually, he just plops down at her feet and goes to sleep. It is his favorite place in the Mansion. Gus lay down on the floor next to Connie, and then she leaned over him and picked him up, and she cradled him in her arms and rocked him to sleep.
He lay in her arms for a long time, until we had to leave, and I could see the pleasure and peace he brought to her, he will, I think, be a fine therapy dog. He loves to be touched, he loves people, and he seems able to sleep almost anywhere.
I appreciate the way people respond so quickly and lovingly to the Mansion's needs. I like that we react but not overreact. We can send too little, we can send too much, we are getting it just about right. We give what is needed, no more, no less, and we do it when we can.
I am learning what the residents really need, I am learning what people can and will send. It is working so well. There is no reason to change it for me. My work at the Mansion is a departure, after a decade of therapy work with dogs. I usually came and went quickly, and rarely came to the same place more than two or three times.
I didn't really get to know people, either they were sick and dying (this was hospice work) or perhaps I was afraid to get to know them because they were sick and dying. I would often show up at someone's home and find them gone.
At the Mansion, I committed to focusing on this one place, getting to know the people well enough to write about them, learning what they really might need to make their lives better. This age group is rewarding, they are elderly but still active, still engaged, still interested in life, even if some are frail.
This was a gamble, it is common for people like me to burnout in this work. But at the Mansion, I was welcome from the beginning and felt comfortable and came slowly to know and love the people there. They came to trust me, and I guess I came to trust them. It feels good, I do not ever feel drained by it.
I never envisioned anything like the Army Of Good, I couldn't have even imagined it. I believe the November election began to connect the dots for me. Everyone around me was anxious or angry, the poisons of the left and the right began to fill the air and enter our consciousness. I didn't want to do that or be a part of that, and so I thought of this idea of doing good rather than arguing about what was good.
It was a selfish impulse, I wanted to feel better, I wanted to feel grounded and meaningful in the middle of sometimes frightening change.
I never imagined Red would be such an intuitive dog for this work, or that a little puppy like Gus could slide right into it.
I did not know so many other people were looking for the same thing, and in some small measure, we are finding it with the Mansion residents and the refugee children, we are touching lives and bringing light to darkness. Yes, it is noble and good to do this everywhere, but there is powerful mojo behind this and I am sticking with it.
Know that this weekend people will be clean and refreshed and regain their dignity because of the simple things you rushed to send them. That is grass-roots conviction and activism at its finest and most productive.
The residents have their soap and shampoo, Connie has mysteries to read, Jane is drawing in her coloring books, Art will be getting letters from people of faith, the residents and is getting a table to write on in their wheelchairs, two people will have good clothes to wear.
The Mansion staffers struggled to find the clothes they want for two of the residents at Wal-Mart yesterday, so the shopping will continue. On to thrift stores.
They did buy a shirt and pants, they'll get the rest over the weekend.
The drawing and reading table for wheel chairs is coming on Monday, I thought of Jane the artist at first but I realize half of the Mansion residents will be able to use it, so I'm turning it over to Julie Smith, the Activities Director when it comes, she can give it Jane, but also share it with others.
Thanks for your donations towards the table.
I think this overbed table is a fairly new product – the Mansion staffers have never seen one – and those of you with friends or family members in wheelchairs who like to read or paint or use puzzles, or who are using wheelchairs yourselves, might want to know about it. See it here.
Connie got some more letters today and she read them to us. It seems many people who are coming to the Open House in October hope to meet Connie there. We will certainly invite her.
So I think we're good for the moment, if you can keep the cards and letters and photos coming, that would be wonderful. Connie proposed to Maria and I today that she collect the photos she is getting and put them up on a big board to show at the Open House. It's a good idea.