Befriending One Another
by Christina Baldwin, Island Senior Resources Board member
On Whidbey, when the days get shorter and the nights get longer, we notice. Except for in Oak Harbor and Coupeville, there are not many streetlights, and not many stores stay open past dusk. Islanders tend to head home, hole up, and ward off the chill. It’s usually raining. We are grateful for those yellow and white lines on the shiny black asphalt. Oncoming headlights are intense. Deer appear and disappear. Once we’re safely tucked in, our resistance to going out again can range from not wanting to have to layer on clothes to being unable to see well enough to drive, or navigate sidewalks or rural terrain.
Perhaps you live in a household still busy with routines, with children or pets, in a life with lots of lights on and things to do. For many “Whidbeyites” though, these are reclusive months experienced as dark, aimless, and lonely.
It’s time to befriend one another—and I don’t mean on Facebook. Winter is a great time to offer one another little gestures and interactions that increase community:
- “I’m going to the grocery store; do you need anything? Do you want to come along?”
- “I made extra cookies, want some? Want to come over for coffee and cookies? Shall I come to you?”
- “I haven’t seen you at church lately. Are you okay? Do you need a ride?”
- “Hey, I have Netflix, want to come over? Popcorn anyone?”
These simple invitations offer different levels of engagement.
If all I have time to do is ask, “Do you need anything?” that is a signal of notice. In my not-yet-retired-busyness, I can take a few extra minutes to say hello, share food, or bring a newspaper to a neighbor’s porch. Most people love recognition and reciprocity: once noticed, we notice others. Doing even the tiniest things for one another, we experience the pleasure of giving and receiving.
If I have time to take my neighbor with me, that’s a step from noticing to relating. Stories start happening on the drive to and from the store. Recipes and memories get exchanged. We get to know each other, bit by bit. We inquire “How are you?” and stick around for the longer answer.
In this darkening month of November, all levels of engagement matter. Try one of these:
- Come eat lunch with us. Island Senior Resources provides community meals at Brookhaven community house in the center of Langley, at Leo’s Place at Island Senior Resources (Bayview), Oak Harbor Senior Center, Camano Center, CamBey Apartments, The HUB at the Methodist church in Coupeville, and Hillside Evangelical Free Church in Greenbank. For a suggested donation of $6.00 you can have a hearty meal, and strike up an interesting conversation with folks you may not yet know. On Tuesdays at Bayview, and Wednesdays at the HUB in Coupeville, there are the added attraction of the Lunch & Learn programs following lunch. The monthly list of presentations is available on the Island Senior Resources website: www.senior-resources.org (click on calendar tab in upper right and select the day you wish to view). Maybe you even want to offer a program; if so contact Cheryn Weiser at 360-321-1600.
- Join with others and volunteer. If you are a “yelder” (young-elder) just turning 65, when you go to ISR for a talk on Medicare, inquire about volunteer opportunities. Come by Bayview any time and visit us! Do you want to be a “day-brightener” for others while driving Whidbey’s back roads to deliver Meals on Wheels? Want to drive people to mainland medical appointments? Want to help at Senior Thrift? Want to sing and paint and tell stories during Time Together? Whatever you give you get back ten-fold in rewarding interaction.
- Host a weekly or monthly coffee hour for your neighbors. Keep it simple and small enough that it’s easy to offer, “My house, 2:00PM, second Tuesday of each month.” Put out a question for the gathering: “When did you move to Whidbey? What were you doing when you were 35? Where have you traveled? What’s still on your bucket list?” Take turns listening to each other. Soon others will suggest topics.
Enjoy being together. And, pretty soon, it will be spring.