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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Home Baked Gratitude - A Thanksgiving Tale

One night my children were listening to another one of their father's tales from work.  Dinner time conversations, when staged around an actual dinner table, can lead to some pretty amazing outcomes.  A recent job change to a Senior Living environment provided the subject.  Actually, a few concepts emerged that night.  1.Work ethics  2.Quality of Life  3. Respect for individuals who have a treasure of life experiences  4.Memory Enhancement Activities

The children had just finished sharing their schedule of daily events from school.  It came time for their father, Ramon, to share his day.  Tales from papi usually have a high level of drama, descriptive language, and a tremendous amount of detail that either intrigue the children or make them beg to go do their homework.  I listen because it usually leads to some creative ideas of my own.  I'll spare you the details of that for today!

Ramon recently accepted a position as Lead Cook for a Senior Living Home that markets itself as one of high quality and compassion.  It's also one where a family's expectations are elevated to correspond with the expense of said quality of services.  A brand new facility is still under construction.   Ramon traveled to another location 50 miles away to complete his training in preparation for the opening.  So imagine Ramon's shock when he arrived at the one-year-old building and discovered that the kitchen staff had grown accustomed to taking short cuts. 

Menu items that were expected by the residents often got substituted.  Cooking techniques were altered to reduce wait times but created less tasty food.  The "cookie" that was listed for the desert plate came from a box instead of home made.  Ramon asked about recipes that are given by the company and was directed to a location where they are kept.  He was told that if he wanted to make the cookies it was all right, but other duties also needed to be completed for dinner service.  Ramon located the cookie recipe and saw that it was a simple one.  He easily baked enough for the dinner service plus completed all the other assignments in the kitchen.  Turns out that this simple act of initiative and desire to give the residents a better dining experience lead to a heart warming interaction with one of the residents.

Ramon was asked to meet one of the residents after she had finished eating her meal.  She complimented him on the home baked cookies that were added to the dessert plate.  Mrs. Larsen said to him, "I used to make those same type of cookies for 20 years when I worked for a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado.  I wished I could still make them, but it's so hard to get the recipe out of my head and onto the cookie sheet."   She thanked him for giving her a happy memory of times when she baked cookies for others.  He had a few tears in his eyes and I admit that it choked me up too.  This kids squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs, as they often do when mommy and daddy get emotional.  But I could tell that the story made an impact.

Another story from the Senior Living Home:  Ramon brought home a container of Red Cranberry Juice Concentrate that was accidentally delivered to the kitchen.  I asked why the residents can't have the red juice and was told that they might spill it on the carpet.  I asked, "Well why don't they have the carpets specially treated so the spill gets wicked away.  I know that product exists!"  Ramon said, "They do have carpets like that, but they still prefer to give the residents white cranberry juice."  I informed him emphatically, "Well when I am in a Senior Living Residence some day, you damned well better serve me RED cranberry juice!" 

Let's all take time to appreciate individuals who have way more life experiences than we do.  There are stories that need to be told and we should listen.  There are memories that occur with the taste of a cookie or the aromas of a well cooked meal. I believe that if someone has to opportunity to make a difference whether through a career choice or by being a volunteer visitor, they should take the time to make every moment a quality interaction. I would hope that someone would do the same for me or a family member someday.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope you make more than a great meal!  Make some Memories that are worthy of conversations for years to come!