Tinsel, trees and memories

[Written on Tuesday 20th December]

Thanks be to God I made it in to the day centre yesterday, despite having been ill and “out of it” over the weekend. It was a ridiculous struggle to go, on the way I thought I was going to faint as I was so dizzy and all the way I was praying and fighting what the voices were telling me (and my body aching to stay in bed!). I feel so sick with myself that I was reluctant in doing a simple thing, just keeping my commitment to the day centre for half a day. Then again I did want to do it, really, in my heart. It’s the voices and pain, mental pain having more hold than the physical, that stop me. I pray my resulting weakened and ungenerous desire will be forgiven and eventually transformed if I do all I can to keep on the path and make my actions loving, whatever is going on in my head.

The Lord heard my prayers and guided me. Doesn’t He tell us He keeps us beneath the shelter of His Spirit’s wings! When I felt I could do nothing He gave me the peace I needed and carried me to the right place. It turned into a beautiful morning.

I had been a bit worried because the activities leader was on holiday, so we were to be short staffed and about 15 elderly people come to the centre on a Monday. When I arrived, I found out a new volunteer had started the week before and of course this was a huge help. I was facilitating a craft activity session. Four ladies joined me and we started making mini Christmas trees from empty plastic bottles, tinsel, felt and card. Whilst it was a difficult start, the idea of having an ornament to take home seemed to appeal, as did the brightly coloured tinsel. I was amazed how everyone got right into it and quickly adapted their designs so each little tree was unique. One lady in particular seemed very discouraged and for several minutes kept telling me how rubbish she was at anything like this and that she should throw her tree away. She has a disability affecting use of one of her hands and I think this makes her feel very sad and frustrated. However, during the activity somehow, she grew a little happier and interested in choosing the colours of felt and glitter for a star to top her tree. By the time she finished, she was talking about taking her tree home and she started everyone talking about where they would display their trees. “I’m going to put mine in the front window so all the children can see it when they go past,” one lady said. I was overjoyed that together we’d created some happiness and a sense of achievement.

The other activity I had planned was making a paper star / snowflake. This didn’t go down quite as well on a practical level, partly as we were a bit short of time. It also seemed to be more confusing and less enjoyable than I’d anticipated. This is a valuable experience for me to learn what’s enjoyable and what’s not. I thought the snowflake would be easier than the trees but that was not so. Possibly it was harder to see what we were working towards and for people with some dementia maybe following a set sequence of steps which had to be done in a specific way, was more frustrating than an activity like the trees which didn’t have such a right or wrong. However, though we didn’t make snowflakes, the topic of paper decorations brought back memories for the ladies of Christmases in wartime or when their children were young, when making ornaments from newspaper and scrap paper was popular because there weren’t the materials or money to purchase decorations.

My soul is emptied of a little of the chaos in times like these mornings at the day centre, as I’m focused as completely as I can on creativity and trying to bring encouragement to another person, love them and show them care.

Ginny xxx

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