Visiting the sick and elderly can brighten their day and actually help them live longer. Many people think they don’t have time to “just visit” someone, and if they’re going to take time out of their busy lives to do something for someone else, they want to do something that has an impact. They don’t realize that “just visiting” a person does make a difference.
Flowers and greeting cards
Receiving flowers and greeting cards makes people smile, and nurses know that people who receive gifts and visitors during their hospital stay recover faster than people who don’t get gifts or visitors. Loneliness is a killer, in a very real sense.
How many people endure a hospital stay without visitors, or even cards? What about nursing home stays, which tend to be much longer—often for the rest of their lives?
Good feeling from giving
A friend says, “When giving is about what you get out of it, it isn’t really giving anymore.” Maybe we should take stock of the things we do for others. Some would say that nothing is purely altruistic, because we always get something out of it, even if it’s just a good feeling about what we’ve done. Of course others would disagree.
Is there anything wrong with getting a good feeling, or even some tangible benefit in return? I don’t think there is. But if what we get out of it is the main reason we do something? Maybe. At least people are still doing something, and I’d rather see that than see them do nothing, even if their giving is out of selfishness, because the recipients benefit.
Then there’s also the fact that action can change feeling. I’ve watched many a criminal doing community service (in places where I’ve run programs) go from being hard and selfish, just performing the actions out of obligation to actually caring about the people they’re serving.
I’m taking my children to visit some elderly people who are lonely. They love making cards and pictures for others. Some of the old people don’t respond; they don’t smile or say thank you. For children who were raised with those manners, it seems odd and rude to them, but I tried to explain that some of those people can’t respond the way we would like. Some have had strokes and other physical problems; some are too far gone mentally to be able to do that, and some are just grumpy, unappreciative people.
That doesn’t matter. We do it anyway. Loving others can create ripples in the universe. We never know what good may come from it, and it changes us for the better, even if no one ever says “thank you.”