SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 87: The Key, “Give Back”

On any given night, in any given city, at any given time, there are amazing secret happenings. Silent acts of giving, compassion and of service to humanity. No selfless deed is unrewarded, and tonight I meet a young lady who exemplifies works of good.

I speak regularly about my chin-up and eyes-wide-open philosophy. That is, notice your neighbors and the world around you. This point-of-view has been a driving force to 365.

It is no surprise then, when as I am driving, just one mile away from my house, I notice a large group of people crossing the street. Accompanying them are several photographers and my attention is peaked when flash of camera’s spark across my windshield.

I’m traveling at 45mph, and with a head snap, I do the best I can to discern what is the event. Whatever it is, I’m in. A quick turn around the block and back to the scene I return. It only takes me about two minutes, but as I re-pass the place of sighting: not a person in view.

I park and decide to investigate. There must have been 100 people, all gone. Could I have just stumbled upon an alien abduction? Perhaps? They can’t just disappear.

I look to the heavens and with no extra terrestrial threats looming, and now standing at ground zero, I notice several more individuals disappearing into a retirement center only ten paces to my left, I follow.

In I go, and in the blink of an eye, I am in the heart of a wonderful occasion. It’s a Christmas / Hanukkah party for the residents, and the place is packed with people. I ask a few questions and am introduced to the program director, Nicole, our 365 friend of the day.

Beautiful, young and vibrant is the best way to express first glance of Nicole. Yet there is greater depth to this special young lady than what first meets my eye, she is a giant of compassion.

This party, this evening, in this little hidden retirement center is changing lives. And from what I see, about two hundred lives. I’m not talking about the resident only, but the families and people who are in attendance as well.

And at the center of it all: Nicole.

There is music of all kinds performed by A list performers, children of all ages walk the room sharing hugs and kisses to the many lovely seniors living within the walls of this secluded slice of life.

All around me is love, and it is infectious. It is no wonder, only fifteen minutes ago; I was so taken by my first sighting of the group crossing the street. They grabbed me at a core level, deeper than the flash of the camera that first caught my eye. There was an undeniable draw. My analysis, “They are all living angels.”

I learn more of Nicole’s motivations for what she does, and why she works so hard (along with the rest of the centers staff) to prepare such a special evening. “I lost my mother when she was in her old age. She lived in a retirement home and died of Cancer. I was with her the whole way. When she passed, I promised myself that I would never let a senior citizen feel unloved or alone. And that’s why I am here.”

Her time with me is limited to a minute here and a minute there. Finding moments to chat with me as she circulates the room. I stand silent and watch her. There is not a resident that she ignores. It is obvious that they are the reason for her evening, and it is easy to see the admiration they have for her. I am touched.

Watching Nicole puts me in my place and I begin to socialize with the residents. It’s not about me anymore; it’s about honoring the many people around me, most of whom have likely formed much of the world I now exist in.

I think for a moment about my mother, a young 87 with the energy of a 20 year old. I’m a little lucky right now. She is very independent, but things could change at any time. Would I want her to be swept aside, even if she suffered Alzheimer’s; Absolutely not.

I speak with a dozen or so residents, some with all their faculties, others in various stages of dementia. Every time, searching for the presence of Nicole. Not so much to interview her, but to thank her for the work she does and inviting me to be part of this special evening. I soon will not forget this experience.

Yes, Nicole’s daily routine involves, calendars, planning events and the general operations of the activities for the community. I know, however, there is more to it than that. This is a calling for her.

A model by trade, Nicole plans on using her talents to do good. “I want to travel the world.” She says with enthusiasm. But there is one condition, “Only if I can give back.”

The key, “Give back.” Could she be taking about helping our older generations? “I think so.”

Nicole is a doer. “In tribute to my mother, I’ve set up a non-profit organization and am working on putting together a Cancer Walk in Pasadena. I want to do it in 2012.”

I promise her this. “I’ll promote your cause.”

“So readers, if any of you have lost loved ones to Cancer, and wish to help Nicole accomplish the dream of producing her 2012 Pasadena Cancer Walk. Drop me a line or comment. I’ll get you in touch with her.”

After all, “We are in this thing together.”

Nicole leaves us this council:

“Never give up. No matter how hard the situation is, let it make you get stronger.”

The through-line continues.