Picture is of a lady and her granddaughter who donated close to 300 stuffed animals.
It was an unusually wet weekend. It was raining for the fourth day in a row. I parked, sort of illegally outside of the nursing home. I struggled to carry a large trash bag, half torn by the flapping wind, and a few smaller sacks filled with stuffed animals. It was the kind of day that I wanted to sit by a fire with a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea. I entered the front door of the assisted living facility. I have been here many times. Many residents have no family, no friends and no visitors. I knew that the stuffed animals had a special mission, to whisper a message, “Someone cares about you.” Many faces looked somber. But from previous visits, I knew the discussions were poignant stories of courage overcome with faith.
I liked to ask what they did to cope when life brought trouble. They told me how they felt His invisible hand. Their God is constantly “on-call.”
“God has given me a good life.”
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” (Psalm 56:3)
“I know God heals.”
While sitting in wheelchairs, their hearts are filled with memories – family outings, a baby on a mother’s lap, afternoon sunlight in beloved North Carolina or parades in Philadelphia communities.
Two women cuddled their bobcat stuffed animals that seemed to cry a little “meow” in their arms. Another woman locked the stuffed animal’s arms around her neck like a baby holding on to his mother. Mattie hugged her doll and seemed to say, “Are you hurt, child?” A lady who seemed to not be able to see or speak said feebly, “thank you” when I placed a cute rabbit in her arms. A very pleasant woman smiled at me. I said, “Would you like a doll?” The large doll was toppling from the top of the large plastic trash bag I was carrying. The doll’s arms seemed to reach out to be held by Mary. The doll’s dress uncannily almost matched the flowered print of the housecoat she was wearing. “I am going to name the doll Mary, that’s my name.”
I then got on to the elevator. A man said to me, “You are doing good work.” I gazed quizzically at him and then realized from the open elevator door, he had seen the exchange with the “doll lady” and me. He asked, “Where do you get the dolls and stuffed animals?”
I said, “Lots of people respond to my craigslist postings, some came from a synagogue collection, and some from friends.” He said, “Oh, what synagogue?”
I said, “Kol Emet.” He said he belonged to a synagogue on Veree Road. As he left the elevator, his eyes filled with tears. “My mother passed away two days ago.”
I then went on my way to the third floor. My sister and I started the music and then I said, “Wait, I think everybody needs a dance partner.” We gave everyone a stuffed animal. They were thrilled. I had run out of stuffed animals at this point but thank goodness, everyone in the room had received one.
Then one of the staff members came up to me and said, “The man that you spoke to on the elevator, from the other synagogue, wanted you to have these stuffed animals. They belonged to his mother. He was in her room packing her things and asked me to give you all of these.”
Oh my goodness, another 8 cuddly critters, in very attractive gift bags. His mother was no longer in the nursing home but from above, she wanted her gifts to be shared.
Several of the women who had already received a stuffed animal, saw the new ones arriving and asked, “Can I have a few more for my friends on the second floor?”
Thanks to the surprise from the “synagogue man” – of course!
I think his mother was guiding her son. She knew where those stuffed animals were supposed to go, right in the home where she had lived. And, sadly, I did not get to thank him for his gracious act of kindness.
It was time for the afternoon meal. Everyone clung to their stuffed animals. Many did not want to put them down while they ate. They continued to hold them.
I went outside in the chilly drizzle, my trash bag now felt feather- light. I felt confident that the Kol Emet stuffed animals lifted the spirits of some heavy hearts.
The quote below is by William Shakespeare about kindness. I appreciate all of the acts of kindness of the people who have helped with the project.
The quality of mercy is not strained,
it dropeth as the gentle rain from heaven,
upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
it blesseth him that giveth and him that takes.