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Reach Out and Touch Someone: Finding Joy in Giving Back
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Lynn Wolfson

               We all want to feel like valuable members of our community. However, many times we are held back by personal issues, lack of time, or just a complete lack of knowledge on how to contribute to help others. Those who have not had the experience may not know the emotional elation that one gets by helping others.

 Lynn speaking at the Jewish Federation.

             Let me tell you a little about myself. I was born with a genetic disease that prevents my digestive track from functioning as it should. Consequently, I am fed through my heart (with home parenteral nutrition), I defecate in a bag glued to my abdomen (my ostomy), and I catheterize to urinate four times a day. It took me years to accept and learn to take care of all of this medical equipment on my own. However, once I accepted, learned, and had my independence back, I wanted to give back to my community.

Getting Involved

               I started by participating in my local ostomy support group. I attended national ostomy conferences and met many people who also had ostomies. I then joined the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) in Washington, DC, and learned how to lobby for bills that are needed for the digestive disease community on Capitol Hill. There I met many people active in the digestive disease community, and learned of and joined the Oley Foundation.

               After several years of attending national conferences with the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA), the Oley Foundation, and DDNC, I decided to create my own support group. I named it the Weston Ostomy Tube Feeding Group. The group meets monthly from August to May (in Weston, Florida) and discusses issues that are important to people with ostomies and/or who depend on enteral and/or parenteral nutrition.

Local Opportunities

               Then I decided I wanted to help my local community. I started going to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and learning how to knit hats for cancer patients. I had not knitted since I was a little girl. I was not too optimistic since I have tremors. However, the ladies in the group taught me how to knit on a loom. I now make beautiful hats that I donate weekly to cancer patients. I was really feeling proud of myself.

               One week there was a senior fair in the ballroom at the JCC while I was in my knitting group. I took a break from my knitting to go and check it out. While walking around the fair, I saw “Jet Express” and I stopped and asked about it. I was told this is a service the Goodman Jewish Family Services provides to seniors for $100 a year. The service is to pick up seniors and bring them to medical appointments, shopping, or social engagements. They needed volunteers to pick up these seniors. This sounded like fun to me. I called Pam at Jet Express and signed up.

               Since signing up, I have enjoyed taking seniors to medical appointments, the beauty salon, and shopping, and just spending the afternoon with them, going wherever they would like. I find the seniors so interesting. I visit with one senior who has lived in Florida since the 1950s and she tells me what South Florida was like when she first came.

               Some seniors are here alone. Their children live out of state and they are lonely. I take one senior out to lunch weekly. I find I learn so much from these seniors and I bring them home so happy. As happy as they feel, I always feel happier that I could do this for them.

               I then found out about the Cupboard, a kosher pantry that services individuals or families who cannot afford groceries and Holocaust survivors. The Cupboard is also part of the Goodman Jewish Family Services. I go to the Cupboard weekly to take grocery orders from the clients and help deliver the groceries. Since I cannot carry due to my medical equipment, I have a partner who can carry the groceries when I am delivering. I do the driving. Again, I really enjoy meeting and talking with all the clients. They are so appreciative of everything we do for them!

               Many of the clients who are having a difficult time—emotionally, physically, or financially—are so elated when they see us, as they know they are not alone. I know for myself that each one of us was given a “deck of cards” in life and no one has received a perfect deck. We all have “rotten” cards. Those people that can overcome these “rotten cards” will be the most successful and happiest. However, as humans, we all need a hand helping us to overcome our individual challenges.

               Once we can master our personal challenges, there is no greater joy than giving back to others. Helping others helps each of us to love life even more and appreciate our individual gifts. Life is a matter of attitude. Those with a positive attitude can not only overcome their own challenges, but also help others do the same.


 

LifelineLetter, November/December 2018

This website is an educational resource. It is not intended to provide medical advice or recommend a course of treatment. You should discuss all issues, ideas, suggestions, etc. with your clinician prior to use. Clinicians in a relevant field have reviewed the medical information; however, the Oley Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented, and is not liable if information is incorrect or incomplete. If you have questions please contact Oley staff.

 

Updated in 2015 with a generous grant from Shire, Inc. 

 

This website was updated in 2015 with a generous grant from Shire, Inc. This website is an educational resource. It is not intended to provide medical advice or recommend a course of treatment. You should discuss all issues, ideas, suggestions, etc. with your clinician prior to use. Clinicians in a relevant field have reviewed the medical information; however, the Oley Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented, and is not liable if information is incorrect or incomplete. If you have questions please contact Oley staff.
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