Once upon a time I was a mayor – no place you’ve probably heard of.
I remember the first night I arrived for a council meeting. I had moved into the city about two weeks before and I received a call asking if I would be interested in applying to fill a vacancy on the council. Apparently the man who had been living in the home we purchased had been on the council so when he moved out there was a vacancy.
My immediate reaction was, “No, but thanks for calling.”
“Well, won’t you even consider it?” the lady asked on the other end. She then proceeded to tell me more about the position and what a great thing it would be for me to be involved. I jotted her number down, but made no commitment. Later in the afternoon I called to tell her I wasn’t interested, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Long story short I was appointed to the position that night.
One of the council members had been in office for almost twenty years. He was a short aging man named Don. As I was apparently the only individual to show enough interest to show up at the meeting, Don looked at me and said, “He looks like a nice guy, I say yes.” All the other council members agreed and I took a seat amongst the rather ugly orange Naugahyde council chairs.
Within two years I was voted into the position of mayor, Don was still there, but he was quieter than he’d been.
Soon this man would come to me at the beginning of each council meeting and say, “You know, I have Alzheimer’s, but don’t you worry, the doctor has given me medicine to help.”
For more than three years Don would repeat that exact same line to me at the start of every meeting.
Other council members cornered me…
“What are YOU going to do about Don?”
“Can’t something be done to get him off the council?”
“Does he even know what is happening?
I responded in a rather unusual way. Prior to the next meeting I had a plaque made that memorialized Don for his work on the council and lauded him for his years of service.
His wife told me later that he had tears when he put that plaque up in their home. He’d never been honored for anything before.
I’m not sure the other council members were overly enthusiastic about my response to Don, but they let the issue rest.
It wasn’t six moths later when we received news that Don had been placed in a nursing home so I decided to drop by for a visit.
“Mary will be back to the house in a bit, she had to get some groceries.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“No, but I’m sure Mary will know. If you could just wait till she gets home.”
“You were a part of the city council.”
Tears flooded his eyes, “Yes, they gave me a plaque. I know it’s around here somewhere.”
His eyes raced over walls of what he thought was home, yet they did not find a plaque. “Oh, you should have been to some of our meetings,” he said. “We did some fine things.”
“I have heard good things about what you did.”
“I wonder when the next meeting is? Awww,” he snapped his smooth fingers, “I bet Mary will know. Do I know you?”
I told him my name.
“Well, it was sure nice to meet you and when you’re in the city drop by the lake it’s just beautiful. We fixed it up real good, you know.”
Two months later my first supporter in politics passed away. He couldn’t remember much, but he remembered the city council and the plaque.
At the next meeting everyone one of the council members came up to me and said, “You did the right thing with Don.”
Sometimes we have a tendency to get confused and look at life backwards. Instead of honoring others for their service we tend to criticize them for their age and for illnesses that are outside their control.
Yes, Don was confused about many things, but he still wanted to contribute and he never disrupted a meeting. I made the choice to see a person and not allow an illness to define how I responded. I have never regretted that decision for someday I might be where Don once was.
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