The Gift Of Love And Forgiveness

Each year as the holidays approach, it's easy to become so mired in the commercialism of the holidays and to lose sight of their real meaning and purpose. However, there is meaning and purpose all around us and sometimes we just need to take the time to look. It can be as simple as a note, a call or a gesture -- a small act of reaching out in love that can positively affect another and return a multitude of blessings.

I heard a story recently that highlighted the power of forgiveness. An occupational therapist at a senior living community -- let's call her Anne -- addressed the topic of forgiveness in a discussion group around Thanksgiving, saying we need to let go of mistakes we have made and forgive both ourselves and those who have wronged us. The next day an elderly resident came to Anne and said she felt lonely during the holidays because she had been estranged from her nephew and his son for more than 10 years. They were her only family. Anne's talk about forgiveness had moved her and she wanted to reach out to them. So Anne helped her make a card and send it to the family members.

A week later, the resident returned for her therapy, sad that she had not received a response to her note. But, shortly thereafter, in walked a young man -- her great nephew -- whom she had not seen since he was a little boy, followed by her nephew, the boy's father. The resident was so excited to see each of them; they embraced and spent hours reconnecting with a promise to stay in touch, all because of Anne's single act of kindness.

Four years ago, in that same spirit, I started Wish of a Lifetime (WOL), a non-profit organization with the goal of helping to change the lives of seniors in a meaningful and positive way by helping them fulfill their dreams. Today, WOL is granting an average of more than one wish per day, and we have corporate partners like Brookdale Senior Living who are helping us extend our mission across the country.

The wishes that we grant create wonderful stories. We have witnessed love, forgiveness, compassion and joy at every turn. And what we have learned the most is that love and forgiveness are the greatest gifts of all.

Hopefully, this year we can meld the "holiday spirit" and our New Year's resolutions into an ongoing culture of love, caring and forgiveness for all. The holidays are indeed the perfect time to begin this transformation. As Ebenezer Scrooge learned, that's the way we were meant to live every day, not just one day per year.

Finally, as we complete our run toward the holidays, I have a wish, too. I wish that together we could change the culture and perception of aging; that we could appreciate the lifetimes of service, wisdom and commitment our parents and grandparents have given to us; and that we could view everyone through a lens of forgiveness and love that the holidays are meant to foster throughout the year. Then we too could derive the full meaning and purpose of this joyous season, not just once a year, but every day of our lives.