Another Way I support March of Dimes

Diane Spindel and Andria Spindel

The photo was taken over 9 years ago; my mother passed away on December 25th, 2007. She and I were very close and I still miss her, and most especially when I am with my young adult children and think about all the pleasure they give me, and how much I want to share it with their grandmother. It has caused me to reflect on the many things I want to share, some of which is incorporated in this article I wrote a few years ago. The article was shared with our donors and will be part of our Legacy Newsletter this month. I am sharing it here as another way to bring my mother and her journey into my memory.

“My own mother became disabled when I was only five years old. Perhaps that, more than anything else, has helped me personally understand, in a most profound way, the importance of individuals maintaining their dignity and independence, no matter what the disability. It’s a core value that instructs our every decision here at March of Dimes Canada. This childhood experience deeply impacted my life choices. At age 34, having just started working at March of Dimes Canada, I took the unusual step at that time of making a Planned Gift to 4 charities through the purchase of a life insurance policy, designating the charities as beneficiaries. I understood that it was an inexpensive way for a young person like myself to make a significant difference, to give back in a meaningful way, even though it would only materialize decades later. For me, making a Planned Gift was also a way to honour several of the most important pillars of my life, to formalize these commitments: community, international development, Jewish life, and the inclusion of people with disabilities. It has been my privilege to work at March of Dimes Canada for almost 35 years. While I could not have known at 34, when I purchased my policy, that it would be such a long relationship, I did already know that working with and for people with disabilities was my calling.

Making a Planned Gift to March of Dimes Canada made so much sense to me. During my time here, I have seen the life transformations that come from the services our organization provides to people of all ages and stages of disability. I have met with thousands of people whose lives we have touched, helped to establish programs that address their needs, and seen how advocacy enables change. I have worked with a remarkable team at March of Dimes and know their commitment is a major contributor to the success of the services we provide to the community we serve. I believe in the future of March of Dimes Canada, in the future of an inclusive society and in the benefits of planning now to ensure tomorrow’s important work — and hope that others share these values.

If you have not yet done so, I would encourage everyone to check with a financial advisor to learn more about the benefits of a Planned Gift. In doing so, it’s my sincere hope that you will consider including March of Dimes Canada in your plans. Based on my personal experience, I’m convinced that you will find Planned Giving to be a most rewarding decision.”

Bicycles, Summer exploration, Autumn colours, Thanksgiving, People-to-people relations

What do all the above concepts have in common? Possibly nothing except they are all topics about which I have felt like sharing and blogging. I hesitate and another week passes, and then I think of a new topic but the former stays with me. So, today I am challenged to at least address one of these topics and over a few weeks, perhaps I can connect them.

The most obvious connection hit me on Monday, October 08, 2012 as its appropriate on Thanksgiving to speak of “gratitude.” I am indeed grateful and give thanks for each of the above, and for the every day joys of family, friends, good health, opportunities, and challenges. I think each morning about what I might do and say with gratitude in my heart. Here is one of my experiences that might inspire someone else to enjoy life’s pleasures.

I spent a week of my summer vacation in Quebec, and for the first time in almost a decade I rode a bike, and for the first time ever I went on a bike tour, and surprise! I didn’t fall off, feel left behind, nor did I ache all over after the 7 hours and many kilometers on a bike.  In fact, I had 3 days on a bike, once comfortable with the new technology associated with biking. I loved it!!!

I now recommend everyone try seeing a city on a bike, but particularly Montreal which has bike lanes everywhere, and they are safe, generally in protected lanes, and always respected by drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. It is positively stunning to see how many people, of all ages and stages of life are on a bike. It is possible for a modern city, with tons of traffic, to incorporate a bicycle culture within its business, tourist, cultural and residential districts. It works! And more importantly to me was that my own legs worked and I enjoyed the company of a dozen cyclists who toured the Plateau of Montreal, including the old Portugese and Jewish neighborhoods. My tour companion was convinced we could do this, but she smartly determined we would not do a 5 day road tour on our (my) first excursion on a bike. We did however, tour the old city and the islands of Montreal on our own during the second day of vacation and then did about 40km in Granby in the Eastern townships on another day as Granby has a wonderful,  relatively flat trail through parkland.

I had never before even sat on a bike with more than 10 speeds, and had no idea what to do with 21. I was comforted by the guide who not only showed me how to properly fit a bike helmet, but also how to use only 3 speeds.

Most important to me was that biking reminded me of an old puzzle question my late father, David Spindel, once posed to me when I was a child and it has stayed fresh for me forever. He asked what was the greatest invention of mankind, it could be used by all ages, maintained or restored health, provided inexpensive transportation,  adventure and recreation, could be used in employment, had universal appeal and came in many sizes and colours?  It was of course the bicycle! I have often quoted my father as I see our city clogged, the air polluted, people struggling with weight and health problems, transportation prices rising, and a general population removed from the ground level of life.

So, try a bike ride, and enjoy the many pleasures that it brings. Take care to have physical activity in your life to remain strong and healthy, have adventures in your life to stay engaged and inspired, and have friends along with you to feel connected and happy.

Counting Blessings

While one may not be able to count something one doesn’t recognize or understand,  there are depths of meaning to this phrase, “count your blessings,” so maybe it applies whether one is secular or religious.

In some faiths, one is instructed to literally count or recount the blessings that one receives, and at special services, these might even be itemized, such as a blessing for food, for family, for peace. To one faith, a blessing is bestowed by God, and shows his favour, and in another, it is believed sufficient to be of that faith to receive or to be part of a collective “blessing upon mankind.” One major faith involves gifting to the representative deity or deities and receiving his or her blessing, or the priest may offer a blessing which might be to pass the special power of the specific deity to the individual. A blessing may come as a formal permission that the devotee requested, or it may come as a “wish for” or granted consent for a decision one makes in life.

Blessing in some churches is a term for marriage and in another sphere it is an initiation rite, and getting “blessed” by a security officer might be an unpleasant experience. The latter is the only use which I am not addressing. Some communities have the practice of blessing something new, such as a new structure, new garden, new church or temple.  Some faiths include a parental blessing for children, wishing them a healthy and happy, long life.

This is a very brief snapshot, but I am intrigued by the notion of “blessing” as a form of prayer, an act of faith, a moment of contemplation, an act of gratitude, a recitation of repeated, oft-used phrases that resonate with the user. Being blessed, giving or bestowing blessings, requesting blessings, or simply repeating one to oneself, seems to have a potency that inspires, reinforces, connects the blessed or blessor with something familiar, special, larger than life or, in my case, with life itself. I am learning what prayer is, and what power there is in a blessing.

My thinking is this-if everyone shared a blessing, or acknowledged the blessings we have in life, those things about which we often take little notice but which give us great pleasure, we would all be happier, less likely to be volatile or angry, and perhaps we’d be more attune to one another.  Here is a short list of things I feel gratitude for or “blessed with:”

A loving sister who has been witness to my life and shares my love of family;

Three children who inspire me;

Two cats who curl up in bed with me;

A job which uses and acknowledges my creativity and energy;

Colleagues who value me;

Friends who love me and whom I love;

A small garden in which to grow a few herbs;

My health which is potentially transient;

The sun in the morning and the moon at night;

A special love who enrichs my life;

People who give a sober second thought before speaking;

People who take time to be kind to one another;

An organization to be associated with that values individual and collective contributions;

Friends of many different faiths and secular friends too;

Grandparents who lived a long life and shared their wisdom;

Parents who loved me unconditionally;

Living in a democracy;

Flowers in my garden;

Fresh air when I open a window, more fresh air when I actually walk outside;

A mind that holds memories and an intellect that questions everything;

A sense of humour;

Friends with a sense of humour;

Bubbles in the bath;

Clean water to drink so I don’t need bottled water;

Coffee every morning;

A safe place to sleep;

A passport fromCanada;

Poetry and novels;

People who love poetry and novels;

Flat shoes and high heels;

Spicy food;

Art on the street;

Summer, autumn, winter and spring;

Dew on the grass;

A city with no mosquitoes;

Public transit;

Public galleries;

Public libraries;

Public parks;

Everyone who chooses to read my blog.

May you share the feeling of gratitude I experience every day and count your blessings too. If you are not yet feeling blessed, think kindly of yourself and share this blessing.