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Gratitude and Generosity

by Paul R. Strickland DEHV Board President

November is National Hospice Month and a time when we at Down East Hospice Volunteers (DEHV) express our sincere appreciation and deepest gratitude to our volunteers for their generous service to the hospice and the people of Washington County.

The bottom-line reality is that DEHV would not have existed for 42 years without the service of hundreds of volunteers who have given their time, talent, and treasure to provide end-of-life respite care.

As a hospice volunteer, I am deeply grateful to current and past clients who have given me the gift of accompanying them in the last days of their life journey. They have allowed me to stand in awareness and sit in uncertainty with them.

Gratitude is recognizing the underlying goodness and support that is part of our lives. Everything we have is ultimately a gift. It is on loan to us for a finite period. My Australian Uncle Lawrence, who has now passed away, used to say that he had never seen a hearse pulling a safe. There is a Buddhist ritual that encourages people at the beginning of a new year to go from room to room in their homes and to reflect that someday someone else will have to get rid of all this stuff!

I think it's important to stress that gratitude is a choice. We are all called to gratitude, but we can choose to listen or not; to be aware or not. It doesn't depend upon circumstances or genetic wiring or something that we don't have control over. It becomes an attitude that we can choose that makes life better for ourselves and other people. When things go well gratitude enables us to savor things going well. When things go poorly gratitude enables us to get over those situations and to realize that circumstances do eventually change.

I invite you to take on the practice of observing what it is you are thankful for daily. Experience gratitude every day and see how it feels in your heart, in your mind, and in your body to show some form of thanks. Additionally, I encourage you to record your observations. See how long it takes before the art of observing gratitude in your own life becomes a wonderful habit.

Gratitude and generosity are inextricably bound. They are two points in the same circle, and it really makes no difference where you enter the circle. The more we experience gratitude, the more we are moved to be generous with what we have been given.

Down East Hospice Volunteers recently had a table at the Perry Harvest Festival where we were selling tickets for a quilt we are raffling and a hospice calendar of Washington County photos. Numerous people stopped by our table to purchase raffle tickets and calendars or to donate to the hospice. Many made comments expressing their appreciation for the compassionate care that a loved one had received from a hospice volunteer. Following the event, I wrote a volunteer who selflessly donated her time on a Saturday afternoon to staff our table. I said I am always humbled by the generosity of the people of Washington County.

Gratitude is a spiritual discipline. When we practice gratitude, giving always seems to follow. In the words of the New York Times best-selling author Melody Beattie, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

If you are reading this and you are not a volunteer, please consider joining a group of dedicated caregivers who truly make a difference. For further information, contact the DEHV office by email: or by telephone: 207-454-7521 X9126. And if you are reading this and you are a hospice volunteer, thank you.



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