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  • Margaret Page

The Importance of Saying Thank You

Like you, I lead a busy life — one filled with frequent travel, work, my grandsons, volunteer responsibilities, and my own hobbies and interests. Sometimes, I wonder how much more I can cram into a single day.


Then, I talk to my big sister Nel and discover what an action-packed schedule is really like.


On any given day, Nel might volunteer for the Heart and Stroke Fund, go grocery shopping for an elderly neighbor, be a crossing guard for Heritage Park, support the arts in the cathedral, or paint children’s faces at an event at the park.


And yet she still picks up every time I call, full of ebullience and vigor and endless enthusiasm. When we finish I feel refreshed; she is a walking, talking anti-depressant. People want to be around her because she possesses a magical combination of can-do spirit, empathy, and true service.


What is remarkable about Nel (among many remarkable things) is that I have never known her to be down or unwilling to be helpful. She is my oldest sibling and was born nine years before I was. When I was growing up, she was my babysitter and confidante and favorite playmate. My mother relied on her just as much as the rest of us did, and yet Nel never complained or failed to make time for me and my siblings — even as a teenager and young woman, when I’m sure she had other desires and places to be.


As Nel got older, her caregiving expanded beyond our family circle and into the community. When someone is in trouble, Nel is the first call. She is able to hold so much space for others; it’s probably not surprising that she has tirelessly aided multiple terminally ill friends and family members. Unlike other people, Nel is never scared of the inevitable. She sees the human behind the illness and focuses on their needs and comfort. It is a rare gift that she uses gracefully and with utmost kindness.


Nel is humble. She never seeks the spotlight, never asks for recognition. You won’t see her name splashed on a big new building. When I tell her she has a special place in heaven, she laughs and says, “From your mouth to His ears.”

It is precisely because of her humble attitude that I can’t answer the question of how she does it. I’m not sure she can, either. She is one of those rare people born with an extra-capacity heart and hands capable of doing the work of being good humans. She is an optimist, an organizer, a lobbyist for love and affection.


The world would be so much better if, like her, we could spend our efforts cheerleading rather than tearing each other down. Serving instead of expecting to be served. Loving without hesitation or reservation. She is the living embodiment of the saying, “The energy we put into the world is the energy we get back.” She is my north star of kindness, and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to live up my big sister’s shining example.


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