Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

Honor Flight

One of the greeters who welcomed the Honor Flight

Something to think about:  “If you can read this, thank a teacher.  If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”  One of the greeters who welcomed the Honor Flight

Returning to Portland (Maine) from Chicago on Southwest Airlines, I had a 3-hour layover in Baltimore.  Unfortunately that didn’t allow enough time to rent a car and go into the city,  which meant I was stuck at the airport for the full three hours, and I was dreading it.

Well, there is a reason for everything and clearly I was meant to have that layover.  Because about an hour into my wait, an announcement was made over the intercom:

Attention all passengers.  Please make your way to Gate B4 to welcome our Honor Flight veterans!  Please show your support for the men who have served our country by welcoming them from Arizona as they arrive at BWI for their tour of Washington, DC.  Again, that gate number is B4.  We hope to see you!

Suddenly I heard a roar.  Loud cheering, whistling, and calling out.  Since I was in Terminal B, I wandered over to Gate B4.  I couldn’t get as close as I wanted to . . . there were hundreds of people, men and women and children, young and old of every race, crowded together waving flags, smiling, and clapping in anticipation of the veterans’ imminent arrival.  Now the veterans began disembarking and entered from the plane through gate B4  into the terminal .  Most of the vets were men and women in their 80s and 90s, many in wheelchairs; veterans of WWII and the Korean War who proudly wore labels with their name, branch of service, and where they had served.  They were greeted with handshakes and hugs by these hundreds of airport greeters:  “Welcome!  Thank you for your service!”

All of the veterans smiled, some laughed, some cried; so overwhelmed were they by the outpouring of love and gratitude for their service almost 70 long years ago.  It was one of the most touching, spontaneous moments I’ve ever experienced – – the coming together of complete strangers who wished to show love and appreciation and honor to people who they’d never even met before.

Honor Flights were started by retired USAF Captain Earl Morse.  You can read more about him here.  This wonderful man was on hand to greet the arriving veterans and his entire persona literally radiated kindness.

Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flights, greets a veteran at BWI.

Earl Morse, founder of Honor Flights (middle), greets a veteran at BWI.

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I took a video (sorry about the bad lighting etc, it was truly spur of the moment) with my cellphone which I’ve posted on youtube.  You can watch it by clicking here.

Apparently a documentary has been made about honor flights, and you can see the trailer by clicking here.

For more information about this worthy organization, click on honorflight.org.

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Tai Chi Graduation Day

Today was a momentous day in my Tai Chi class.  Six months ago several of us joined a class for beginners.  There are 108 different “moves” done in a particular sequence, and we learned a few of the moves each week and repeated them endlessly, practicing stance and technique twice a week.  (Surprisingly, the class was never boring!)  Besides the newcomers, about 30 “regulars” who have been doing Tai Chi with this group for many years also participate.  The price is right: it’s free, although once a year we are asked for a $20 “donation,” and once a week people are asked to drop any unwanted food staples into a cardboard box; it’s given to the local food bank.

Today we finished learning the last of the 108 Tai Chi moves and after class, everyone was invited for pizza at a local diner (obviously not kosher) for a graduation celebration.  (I ordered hot water in a disposable cup – – I had even brought my own teabag!)  Besides receiving our diplomas, each graduate  was asked to speak about what they had gained from the class.  The instructor was hoping for some life-changing stories about people who improved their mobility or balance, but the truth is, Tai Chi takes years to master (just because you know the moves doesn’t mean you have finesse), and because it’s a slow-moving, deliberate exercise, the benefits are initially subtle at best.  So when it was my turn to speak, this is what I said:

I originally joined the Tai Chi class because I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, and I wanted to optimize my balance to prevent falls.  But what I really gained from the class was a totally unexpected surprise.

A few years ago, I was a caretaker for my elderly mother and mother-in-law.  It was a very stressful time for me, and filled me with heartache.  When it was all over, I felt like I had aged 10 years, both mentally and physically.  But the worst thing was my attitude:  I dreaded old age to such a degree, that the very notion of aging was depressing and terrifying and I could not imagine how I could ever face it.

The great thing about this class is seeing so many older people living vibrant, active lives.  I’m sure you all have your share of aches and pains, and some of you have serious health problems.  But to see you arrive at class week after week, volunteering your time and expertise to help newcomers, driving long distances in rain, sleet and snow to be part of this experience, is a wondrous thing.  Many of you are in your eighties and nineties, yet I can only envy your vitality!  You are never without a smile or a kind word or positive attitude; you are so full of grace.  You have taught me that getting older doesn’t have to be a curse or something horrific.  None of you are victims of your age, you are celebrants.  I just want to thank everyone here for being such a positive influence, because you really have helped change my life and outlook for the better.

You can check out my Tai Chi class website at http://www.taichiinmaine.com

Live Free or Die

Ideologically, New Hampshire is arguably the most unique state in the United States today.  It’s motto is “Live Free or Die” and its residents take this credo very seriously.  They are a proud, independent and thrifty people who abhor Big Government.  There is no state sales tax, and no state income tax.  Their property taxes are higher than neighboring states, but at the end of the day the total cost of living in NH is thousands of dollars per year cheaper than living in any other New England state.  Recently I read an article about the State appointing a cadre of geriatric social workers for home visits.  Apparently there were many elderly living on such minimal incomes, they lacked enough money for basics like food, heat, and medical treatment, but their pride and repugnance of government aid hindered them from seeking available help and social services.  Few would accept Welfare.  The State wanted to ensure that these reluctant elderly were getting the services they were entitled to, hence they mandated home visits.  A few days later, the newspapers were full of indignant Letters to the Editor by elderly readers blasting Big Government for their interference.

But what really caught my eye was this article from the Conway Daily Sun.  A school board in the Mt. Washington Valley town of Bartlett realized that they had a budget surplus.  They voted to return the surplus to Bartlett’s residents so property taxes could remain low.  They also publicly accounted for every dollar spent (to the penny!).  Can you imagine this happening in any of the schools where you live, be they private or public?

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