Homewoods on the Willamette

Living Well on the Willamette River

A Whole New Year

Published on by Laura Engle

Estonian Embassy Fireplace

A new year tends to bring about reflection. The words Auld Lange Syne literally mean “old long since.” Another way of saying this is “time gone by.” It is a good time of year to sit by the fireplace, or with a cup of tea and a friend, and remember all that has happened. Tell it in the same old way, highlighting your favorite parts and then tell it to another friend in a new way, finding the surprises in your own life story just waiting for you.

It has been a great year. Early in the year we began working with an organization called Well Arts that helped a small group of residents turn their life stories into live theater. It was a profound experience for all of us and something I will never forget. I am still awe-struck by the courage of those who participated and the power of their stories. What I saw and learned is that no life is insignificant, our ups and downs, our confusion as well as our clarity, all of it is meaningful. When we are willing to share our story with others, everyone benefits. It turns out we are all more alike than we know.

In addition to storytelling, we celebrated in many other ways. We celebrated mothers with a mother’s day tea and dads with an ice cream social. We celebrated our WWII veterans at our annual Patriotic Picnic. We celebrated the harvest; we appreciated our residents during resident appreciation week, and in the month just past, we held as many special events as we had held all year in one month! I think all would agree, our holiday concert season here at Homewoods was over the top this year. I would like to especially acknowledge the choir from NW Christian high school who seem to bring the spirit of the season with them every year in their smiles and voices. I think we all feel encouraged about life and our world when those young people share their gifts with us.

Hats off to our hard working kitchen and maintenance teams, too, who make these events happen every day “as if by magic.” Yet we all know it isn’t magic at all that makes it happen but dedication, planning, and sweat. Homewoods residents showered the staff with love and gifts in December. Their generosity was humbling.

A highlight of this past year has been our karaoke regulars. Who knew that karaoke, of all things, would be one of our highlights? At first I was wary of this new activity. We’re doing what…where? But then I went and got to experience the fun first hand for myself. It turns out, we love to sing and laugh, and it’s good for us, too. Isn’t that what they say? Laughter is the best medicine.

A word that has stayed with me this year that has guided my thinking and planning is Shalom. Shalom, as you probably know, means peace. It isn’t peace as in “absence of fighting” but peace as in completeness, or wholeness. That is what we are entrusted with here, maintaining our sense of wholeness both as individuals and as a community.

As I go about my “business” here, I use our core values to measure what we are doing. Are we having fun recreating? Are we taking care of each other and greeting each other with kindness? Are we hospitable? Are we, “letting go and letting God”? These are good challenges for me and the staff to live up to and for all of us to keep in the forefront of our thoughts. For it is here today that memories and meaning are being made and here that life is lived completely. When we have a sense of wholeness or completeness, when each person feels welcomed and honored, then we can truly say we are living well. I am looking forward to many more special times in the year to come.

photo by: Mr. T in DC

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