“The Good I’ve Found”
By Jessica Karpilo, Outreach Associate
Dorothy Bell, who has, at times, been both an Island Senior Resources’ volunteer and client, is no stranger to interviews. You may remember reading about when she jumped out of an airplane at 81, the class of students she knits hats for every year, or her joyful, curious approach to life that we can all learn from. So, when she tried to think of a way to thank her entire community for rallying around her in her time of need, sharing her story in the paper just made sense.
One year ago, Dorothy was in a car accident. She woke up in the hospital and discovered that, among other bumps, bruises, and breaks, her foot needed to be entirely rebuilt. Relieved and grateful to be alive, but with a long road to recovery ahead of her, the hospital, then a rehab center, would be her home for several months.
Meanwhile, everyone in the world was adjusting to life with COVID-19, practicing new habits, and, in many cases, dealing with loss of jobs, loss of life, and loss of any sense of normalcy. But, as we all have seen, none of this could stop us from caring for each other and for our communities.
It is often when things seem the worst that people show up for us in unexpected ways; Dorothy will attest to this, because Dorothy’s people showed up.
Her neighbors and friends did everything they could to make sure that Dorothy could come home. The Lions Club built a wheelchair ramp, friends reorganized her entire home, even removing the interior doors, so that she could navigate with her wheelchair. Others made food and froze it in small containers, ensuring that she would have plenty of meals waiting for her. Neighbors and friends maintained her garden, which she, a master gardener, refers to as her “treasure” and what keeps her going. Someone from the Navy base even came down to trim her fruit trees.
Because of all of this, Dorothy was able to come home last July.
The ramp especially, made this possible— “They wouldn’t have let me come home otherwise,” she said.
Since she has been home, her best friend has helped her organize mail and medications. She even met a new neighbor whom she previously knew only through her dogs, who helped while she was away and has since become a good friend. Dorothy has a list of friends she can call if she needs anybody, but she is proud to say that she has not had to use it.
“I’m determined. I’m very determined to do things,” she said.
Challenges like finding where people put things when they rearranged or mail being delivered after dark might frustrate others, but Dorothy laughs them off, seeing them as opportunities to push herself and find creative solutions.
When asked how she is able to stay so positive, she barely hesitates before sharing,
“I’ve been on my own— I left home when I was 15, and through my life I’ve decided that if anything bad happens, you have to look for the good.”
“And look at the good I’ve found! All these people that have helped me and done things for me. It brings tears to my eyes. And that’s the good I’ve found.”
Dorothy was happy she was still able to knit hats for a classroom full of students and decorate her home (inside and out!) for Christmas, things she does every year.
“People tell me I’m doing good, but then they add ‘for your age,’” she laughs as she says this. “It doesn’t seem real. I’m 87 now. I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel when you’re 87, but I don’t feel as if I’m 87.”
Dorothy continued, saying when her physical therapist asked what she wants to be able to do when she’s better, she told them that she wanted to be able to get on her roof and clean her gutters out. She jokes that she nearly gave them a heart attack.
She laughs, putting it simply, “I’ve always done it, and I still will.”
Dorothy asked me to write this article so that she could thank her friends, neighbors, and community for everything they’ve done for her, but now that it’s written, I also need to thank Dorothy.
She reminded me of something we could all use reminding of these days— you have to look for the good. You have to look for the good, because even in the midst of pain and difficulties, there’s so much good to be found.
Photo caption: Dorothy Bell stands at the end of the ramp that the Lions Club built for her.