Mary Blazanin

I certainly have a lot of friends during the holiday season. I know this because my mailbox is bursting every day, and I imagine it will continue into late January.

Each day I sort through a growing stack of mail loaded with complements, good will, photos of happy families and generosity. First, I open the one or two envelopes from people I actually know, my friends and family sending lovely Christmas greetings. I feel the warmth of their words deep in my heart.

Then, I turn to the others. They lavish me with praise and I see people happy and content. They tell me I am their best customer, stylish dresser, generous donor, or indebted participant. They are generous with gratefulness, incentives and discounts.

I quickly recycle the ridiculous or unknown solicitors, and pay my bills. But, because I grew up when the Sears and JC Penney catalogues were the most sought after mailer, I enjoy looking through the flyers and catalogues. By habit, I dog-ear a page or red-circle an item that looks intriguing. I am a kid all over again, sitting in a corner, putting together her wish list and waiting for gifts to stack up under the tree.

This got me thinking about the generous gifts that have been lavished on us this past year at the Chanhassen Senior Center. The ones that have already been opened with great surprise.

Local businesses and organizations stepped up to donate gift cards, food items, time, talent, and money, allowing us to keep our program costs down and serve more active older adults than ever. Many of them also stepped up to physically remodel our Maple Corner, giving us a beautiful living room-style space for hosting small groups, memory cafes and community outreach resources.

My advisory board members are my irreplaceable hands and feet. Serving up countless bowls of soup and setting more event tables than most of us dream of; they are selfless and critical for our success. These folks are some of our best ambassadors.

Our city’s senior commissioners generated outreach programs, and ideas for creating a city that is aging-forward friendly and education-minded. Our Park and Recreation commissioners and City Council provide great ongoing support of our work here. I thank them heartily.

Many others are just as noteworthy. Our weekly card players, Bingo players, singers, wood carvers and book clubs are all led solely by volunteers. They have committed to keeping things running smoothly, with fun and energy to boot. I have gracious behind-the-scenes volunteers who bake goodies, make phone calls or simply greet newcomers with a smile.

These are the people who have made our space a warm and welcoming community. They have provided new memories, which make me smile with gratefulness and pride. These are the ones I am dog-earing and red-circling in my work notes.

As we move into the New Year, I encourage you to be a dog-eared, red-circled neighbor to those around you. Generosity doesn’t just come in dollar signs. It is also played out in giving a helping hand where you see a need, smiling warmly even when it’s not returned, complimenting your neighbor on, well, anything, and challenging yourself to do a simple act of kindness every day.

I hope that in this New Year, you will be able to look back and bask in the gifts of help and kindness you’ve collected, and given, along the way.

Mary Blazanin is the Chanhassen Senior Center coordinator. The senior center is located at 7700 Market Blvd., Chanhassen. More info at 952-227-1125.

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