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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Holiday Wish for My Grandmother and Yours.

We have all gotten through Thanksgiving and hopefully each of us has plenty to be thankful for again this year. And while I certainly have been blessed beyond measure again this year, I write to all of you this week with a heavy heart; my maternal grandmother is in the last stages of life in hospice care. She is the last grandparent I have still living and so there is something particularly poignant and sad for me about her passing.

Don’t get me wrong, she has had a wonderful life worth celebrating. She was happily married to my Grandfather for over fifty years until he passed away several years ago; she raised three kids and has a bushel basket full of grandkids and great grandkids. She had a career in the banking industry when women didn’t usually have careers outside the home. She traveled quite a bit, including a trip “Down Under”. However, even though she is wonderful to my family and me, this column is not just about her.

As the holidays come near I hope to encourage you to visit the elderly people you might know. This is especially important if you suspect they will be alone for much of the holiday season. Keep in mind, with everyone feeling the pinch of the economy right now, our children and elderly populations are most at risk. So, anything you can do as a family, such as visiting an elderly neighbor or an assisted living facility is always a welcome event.

You will want to call before you go to get the rules of the facility and take their suggestions as to how to proceed. For example, many of the residents have special dietary restrictions that must be adhered to if you are to bring foodstuffs. Many facilities keep their residents busy, so again call ahead to make sure you come at a time when you are not interrupting the schedule and the residents will be able to visit with you. It is precisely the human interaction that most residents crave the most.

On the other end of the age spectrum are the children of the community and like most grandmothers, children are especially dear to mine. The Children’s Village is always in need of volunteer help, toys, food items and of course financial support. You can find them on Hanley Ave. or at The work they do is invaluable to the community and a life saving influence for the children they serve.

Most of us are reminded of our social obligations around the holiday season with columnists who publish the obligatory holiday columns such as this one, but I hope to call us all to action more often than once a year, and I hope that each of you will respond in the way your talents and resources allow. I am sure it is what my grandmother, and likely yours, would want us to do.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Texas A&M University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

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