Attitude of Gratitude
When we returned to the U3A after Christmas we found a letter pinned to the noticeboard thanking the U3A for giving them the chance to learn to use the computer. They had been able to contact their family by Skype over Christmas and this made the holiday time less lonely for them. We were touched by the letter which was unsigned. It made me think about how much a simple “Thank you” can mean to us.
There is so much to be grateful for in our lives. One of the blessings of growing older is that we can, not only appreciate the past but more acutely the present. Gratitude can improve our relationships. So often in a family, or at work, even in an organisation like the U3A, we can take the kindness, commitment and generosity of others for granted. We forget to say “Thank You” or “I appreciate that.” But studies are showing that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, which in turn will increase our happiness and well being. One way I found particularly helpful is to write down daily in a note book five things that I am grateful for.
This week I asked some of our members what were they were thankful for as they attended the various classes in the U3A.
Bridie Flanagan joined the U3A five years ago. She initially joined the Walk and Talk group but is at present a member of the Ladies Choir. Bridie always liked singing but had never joined a choir. She loves the friendliness of the U3A members. She appreciates the hard work and commitment of choir mistress Breda. Sr. Francis accompanies the choir and even teaches a little tai chai to help the choir relax. She is grateful for the opportunity the choir provides to improve her memory, as she learns so many new songs.
Recently, as part of the choir outreach, they performed for residents of Ardmaine Nursing Home. She says she was so thankful for her own health and ability to bring pleasure and joy to people of her own age and younger. The choir’s next outing is to the community centre in Pointzpass. It’s not all about singing. Bridie says that sometimes the group have lunch out together and that is really enjoyable. She is looking forward to this year’s Song Fest in Bangor in May. She loves the Sing Fests, organised for all the U3As in Northern Ireland. She has a great sense of achievement when the choir perform well, but above all she is very grateful for the new friends she has made since joining the U3A.
John Doyle is a member of Newry U3A for six years. He joined because he heard there was a lot going on there and he saw his retirement as a time for new beginnings. He certainly did not hold back in discovering new channels of interest. In fact, John is one of the most hard working people in the U3A. He facilitates the Men in the Kitchen and the Gentlemen Singers classes as well as taking part in Kaleidoscope’s Acting Up class and the New Age Kurling activity. One of the pay offs for older people learning new things is increased memory power. I asked John about this.” With so much going on, planning classes notifying people, and learning new skills, there is no time for my brain to degenerate.” says John. Another benefit for older people of learning new things is self discovery. John says that he has discovered that he is capable of more than he ever thought possible. He never imagined he could stand up in front of a large group and talk to them. He is grateful for the Acting Up Class in particular. He remembers at his first class thinking - I’m not going on the stage and I’m not learning lines because I won’t remember them. But he did learn his lines and though his knees were knocking at the start of the first show he persevered and now is looking forward to the fourth production.
John has a real sense of accomplishment regarding the Men in the Kitchen class. It has 19 enthusiastic and interested men who gather around a table talk about men’s interests and issues, they enjoy the banter and the craic while learning new cooking skills. They have progressed from cooking in one pot to oven cooking and baking bread. John sees this as a cutting edge venture. He is grateful for the opportunity the class provides for men perhaps living on their own or with a partner, to bake and then go home to try out the recipe there.
Older people who continue to learn experience an increase of happiness. John says he has met alot of people since he joined the U3A. He knows at least 100 people by their first name. “It could have been so different, I could have just retired to the garden and pottered about, maybe gone for a walk and said hello to a neighbour and felt very isolated. I’m happy and thankful that the U3A never allows you to be isolated” says John.
Michael Howe says that when he retired at the age of 70 he went from feeling useful to useless in twenty four hours. He was looking for some kind of academic pursuit. He had heard about the U3A from friends but thought it was elitist - not socially but academically and out of his comfort zone. When he eventually joined, he discovered to the contrary, that U3A was in no way elitist. He met a range of people there that he could get on with any day. He started with digital photography and then he moved on to Men in the Kitchen, Bible Studies and Spanish classes. Michael pays tribute to the tutors who lead the courses, who themselves are older people who work with such patience.
Michael says “In the U3A I began to grow in confidence and belief in myself . What I love about U3A is that there are no politics - internal or otherwise. I love the democracy of it, the gentleness of it and how people can rub along together from different backgrounds - a place to live and let live.” After his experience with Men in the Kitchen he progressed onto a cake making course in the Catering College.
Michael thinks U3A caters very well for couples as well as as singles. He sees it providing couples with new fresh topics of conversation. So often older couples feel they have nothing left to say. Having something new to share deepens the relationship.
He believes that having achieved a lot, he now can contribute something to the U3A. “I feel a lot happier now than when I joined. I see a lot of people like me out there, doing nothing, I want them to join. There are so many courses to avail of and there is no time like the present!”
Members are reminded that the AGM is on the 9th March in the Canal Court Hotel at 2.00pm. Nomination forms for the management committee are available in the office.
Refreshments are available and there will be an exhibition of some of the work from various classes. We would be grateful for your presence.