1 October

People Are Good! A 90th Birthday Present To The Mansion

by Jon Katz

I’ve always seen emotion as a distraction from my work and my focus. My emotions show up in my writing and my photography, but I shut down when emotions pop up in my life.

I put them aside and move on.

The Army Of Good has made this more difficult for me to do.

This week marked Denise Gayley’s 90 th birthday. She decided to give herself a birthday present – a $1,000 check for me to use at the Mansion any way I wish in support of the residents and the aides.

She wrote me a beautiful message that would break open the hardest heart.

Happy 90 th to me,” Denise wrote from her home in Indiana. “My birthday wish is enclosed. Please fill in for your Mansion fund –  residents and aides. My husband and I enjoy the comforts of our own home, we are fortunate. And my car parks with pride wearing its “Army Of Good” bumper sticker. Keep up the goodness, cordially…Denise Gayley.”

I know how to say thank you and I wrote Denise a message to that effect, but the generosity of the good people out there who I have never met and most probably will never meet leaves me without words.

I’m not having an emotion problem when I get a letter like that or a check like that.

I will put this money into immediate and good use. It will do a lot of good.

Some money for the Mansion aide who is struggling to feed her family; I will wrap up my winter clothing campaign and make certain everyone who wants one will get a scarf, gloves, shoes, hats,  flannel shirts, lap blankets, and warm pants and bathrobes.

Perhaps an outing to a museum in Saratoga.

It’s still hard for me to get my head around a spirit so generous she would mark her own birthday by giving $1,000 to others in need. Talk about the spirit of Christmas. People are good, given the chance.

They just don’t often get the chance.

Raising money is never comfortable or easy for me. Denise made it a lot easier this week.

I appreciate lessons in generosity, empathy, and selflessness. There is great need for those things in our world and our time.

The Mansion staff has asked me to spruce up some Christmas lights and ornaments this year, I’ll be ordering colored LED lights, artificial candles, and colorful tree ornaments, special Christmas stickers for the windows.

I’ll make sure we invigorate and inspire a real lighting show in the great room and hallways this Christmas. And I’ll make sure the residents have the soap and shampoo and toothpaste they need.

I don’t believe in leaving donated money lying around, it should be out in the world doing good, and I’ll go through this $1,000 quickly (I might get some cigarettes today for the Secret Garden trio, who were outside shivering this morning going through their last cigarettes.)

I’m going to try and put some of this money aside for the proverbial rainy day. That will take some discipline and will.

Thanks, Denise, and Happy Birthday to you. I will think of you and your husband in your own home. You have the great gift of putting yourself in the shoes of another.

A great man said it is better to give than receive, you have brought us a great lesson in that spirit, and thank you. People like you fill me with hope and joy.

Much love back to Indiana.

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