Ever since I survived a heart attack in December 2011, I’ve been saying I’m grateful to be alive. But in the nearly two years since that time, that statement has lost its force. So it’s time to reconsider, to think about it more deeply.
The first question I ask myself is what am I grateful for? That I still occupy a space on the planet? No. That I still have time to do the things I always wanted to do? No. I’ve done most of what I wanted to do in my life. There’s no “if only…” hanging over me. Why should it matter to someone with no children or grandchildren whether she continues to exist or not?
Asking the question requires deeper reflection than the obvious. My survival was practically miraculous, and so I and others said it clearly wasn’t my time to go. I survived because there was still something I had to do. But what? I am a quiet sort of person, not given to heroic quests, protest marches or sit-in/sit-down demonstrations, not much given to self-sacrifice. So what can I do that would justify my continued existence? I don’t know the answer, but I may be coming to it slowly.
All my life, I have had a need to help others, to do some good in this life, to make some difference in the lives of others. For a while, I satisfied this craving by writing stories for the Homer News that focused on health and social issues in our community: eating disorders, domestic violence, child abuse, drunk driving. I also found satisfaction in teaching, both at the high school and college level. But those days are long past. What can I do now to make a difference?
The only thing that has come to me is trying to be an example of caring — a mentor to others who might be facing the same need to do — an inspiration, if you will. I have found participation in my Rotary Club to be a golden opportunity to contribute to the well-being of others. The more I work on our projects, the more I see how many opportunities there are in our community to do good, to help others who could use a little caring for. There must be at least 20 organizations in Homer dedicated to making the community a better place and helping those who don’t have the means to help themselves. So many people doing so much good, and yet there is still so much to do. What can I do about it?
The same thing each and every one of us can do: get involved. The holiday season is a time when most of us think of sharing and caring for our fellow citizens, and rightfully so. But friends, the needs in our community continue long after Thanksgiving and Christmas have gone. None of us have to look very far to find something we can do to help alleviate the suffering. So let’s get at it.
Jan O’Meara is a long-time resident of Homer. A former newspaper writer and teacher, she now publishes Alaska educational material and helps authors bring their books to print. She is also a member of the Rotary Club of Homer Downtown.
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