“Do your little bit of good where you are; It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Desmond Tutu.
By MARILYN SHAPIRO
This morning, as I have done almost every Monday morning for the past four years, I mailed out a small stack of postcards. Just call it my very small attempt to do little bits of good.
In January 2012, my husband Larry and I were still living in Upstate New York. Doris Calderon, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer, needed to undergo extensive treatments at Sloan Kettering in New York City. She and her husband Marty recruited several friends to make weekly visits with Marty’s 99-year-old mother-Rose, who resided in the Memory Enhancement Unit (MEU) at Daughters of Sarah Senior Community in Albany.
Thus began a friendship with Rose that continued until her passing over two and a half years later. A couple of months into my visits, I coordinated with the social director for the MEU to conduct activities with other residents. Doris had returned, thankfully healthy, but I continued my visits with Rose and residents of the MEU.
In the fall of 2012, during one of my visits, I struck up a conversation with a young man whom I had seen maneuvering his wheelchair around the building. This began a second friendship at Daughters of Sarah. Marc was 34 years old and had become a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident when he was 16. He had moved to Daughters eight years earlier.
After Rose died, I continued my weekly visits with MEU residents and with Marc. Most of the time, Marc and I chatted in his room. When I finally got the courage to take him for outings in his fully equipped handicap accessible van, we took impromptu field trips.
Keeping In Touch
When Larry and I decided to relocate to Florida, telling Marc about our impending move was one of the hardest conversations that I had during our transition. I promised him that I would keep in touch. It is a promise I have kept, mostly through postcards.
The first one I sent was corny: “Greetings from Florida!” with a picture of an alligator wearing a bikini. Soon after our move, we headed to Colorado to await the birth of our grandchild. Marc received postcards reflecting the Rockies—moose, bear, majestic mountains. I scribbled out a short note telling him about our hiking adventures, and then about our beautiful new granddaughter. These were followed by postcards from San Francisco—cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge— when we visited our son before returning to Florida.
When we came back to Albany for Thanksgiving in 2015, the first stop was to Daughters of Sarah to visit Marc. On his wall were all the postcards that I had sent him. While there, I arranged with the social director that I
would also send weekly postcards to the MEU.
My messages on Marc’s postcards usually were comments about the front image as well as personal updates and questions about how he was doing. Those addressed to the residents were aimed to foster discussion: “Have you been to Colorado?” “What winter sports did you enjoy?” “What is your favorite Disney character?” “Have you ridden the cable cars in San Francisco? If so, describe what it was it like.”
Most of the time, however, I was sending postcards from our home near Orlando. I became concerned that too many were Florida-centric. After all, how many pictures of alligators and Mickey Mouse could anyone want? Through the president of my community’s local travel club, I asked members for help in obtaining cards from other places. Soon, members were providing me with dozens of postcards from around the world. I let Marc and the MEU know I had not just returned from an around-the-world trip, but it has helped vary both the places and the messages I provide.
By this time, my granddaughter was two years old. Living almost 2,000 miles away from her has been a challenge. Larry and I Facetimed often, but I wanted to show her in writing that I was thinking of her. Eureka! Why not send her a weekly postcard? Soon after we returned from Colorado in August 2017, I sent her a postcard with a message saying how much we had loved seeing her and signed “Love, Gammy and Zayde.”
When we visited in March, she proudly showed me a box with all the postcards she had received. One of my favorite pictures from that trip is the picture of her gleefully holding three postcards that were awaiting her in her parent’s mailbox in the town’s post office.
The Right Card
Now three postcards were mailed out every Monday morning. Most of the time, they were triplicates, but Larry and I have had fun finding some that were unique and special for our granddaughter. She has been sent more than her share of Disney princesses and cute animals.
My favorite? Our 2018 summer visit to Colorado fell during our granddaughter’s toilet training, and Larry and she had spent (according to me and her parents) too much time watching a Pac-man pooping video. Less than two weeks later, while on a tour of Norway, Larry and I mailed her a scatological postcard, which featured a little blonde troll sitting on a potty seat with a big smile as the overflowing poop fertilizes flowers. Judging from both the wear and tear, and its prominent position on the bookcase in her bedroom, it is her favorite as well.
Sending out weekly postcards takes little time but provides me with much joy in that I am keeping connected to friends and family no matter what the distance.
Marilyn Shapiro, formerly of Clifton Park, is now a resident of Kissimmee, Fla. A second compilation of her articles printed in The Jewish World has been published. Tikkun Olam now joins There Goes My Heart. Marilyn Shapiro’s blog is theregoesmyheart.me.