The ‘thankful for’ tree
Nursing home residents do little planning about how Thanksgiving will be celebrated. As a resident, I have never been asked what my favorite Thanksgiving meal food choices are, but I am grateful for the hot meal that is served. Residents may make a few Thanksgiving decorations, but the activity aides put them up. In essence, nursing home residents are mainly consumers of the facilities’ Thanksgiving celebration.
For the first time since I have been here, the activities staff had the idea to put a resident "thankful for" tree on the wall. The activity aides fashioned the tree from cardboard and paper. Then they went to each room to find out what residents are thankful for. The individual leaves are made of brightly colored paper and on each leaf is written what one particular resident is thankful for.
The tree is 6 or 7 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet across. It is two thirds of the way up the main hallway, closer to the nurse's station in the back of the building. When it went up Nov. 2, I sat with great interest reading each leaf. It is inspiring to read something that speaks to the gratitude of others. It makes me see other residents in a totally different way.
A few residents were thankful for their health, several for their life and one for living every day; another for a roof over his head; my nurses; Hershey's, spice drops, fried chicken and food in general; and family: sons, daughters, mothers, sisters, others and caregivers. One female resident is thankful for her Lord and Savior. One male resident is thankful for what he has. Another male is thankful for his tarantula – and I am thankful it is not here. It is gratifying that the residents appreciate the simple things in their lives.
As the days shorten with the approach of winter, it is uplifting to have a colorful Thanksgiving decoration that is quite different from the usual turkeys and cornucopias. Though the tree was not drawn by our resident artist, I like that it is colorful and allows residents to contribute their thoughts. Many residents could have participated by writing on the leaves. But since that is not possible for all the residents, I am pleased activities wrote our thoughts so they can be easily read and printed our names so they can be seen.
To me, art is anything those participating consider it to be. The tree is a lovely greeting card to anyone who works or visits here.