In Judaism, we have a phrase: Hiddur Mitzah, הידור מצוה. Myjewishlearning.com defines this as “The principal of enhancing a mitzvah through aesthetics.” How is that accomplished? I would like to share some observations that have helped me learn from others.
Complications, challenges, worries…. even life can bring a person to feel worried or even downtrodden. Many people feel the weight of our time and place in history. So, why do I feel joyous, calm, and inspired when I observe seniors living with astounding physical, and sometimes mental challenges; why do I feel so uplifted? Perhaps it is because for some, the mitzvah is living. The seniors I visit are, not only living with the dignity and grace of sovereignty; they are also beautifying this living with creative expression.
Every week, I bring vibrant colors of wool, needles, and small square cushions to seniors in assisted/independent living as well as to those in memory care at The Meadows (at Frasier). It is a very fluid experience with no certainty of what will happen.
We had a new participant last week. A little shy and a bit hesitant, when asked if she wanted to join us, she honestly questioned her ability. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to do.” We all encouraged her and with ease she began pulling colors and placing them on the cushion.
When asked about her results after a first attempt, she replied, “I like it.”
“…And would you like to share what it is you like about it?”
“I like how the colors melted together…the dark green is like an overcoat for the more delicate colors. “
A spark of delight infuses the air with contributions from our newest artist.
When another friend encounters changes in abilities, cognition, or physical constraints, he/she might be gently guided to a new residence in order to receive more assistance. She seems to welcome the changes with enhanced creativity. Some days, focus is good. Some days wandering around the room is the order of the day. The present moment is celebrated in the sublime.
Some members of the class continue each week in a willingness to contribute. Masterpieces are routine and always bring smiles to all who view the art.
Miracles are often an everyday occurrence if our hearts and minds are still enough to capture them with appreciation and live the moment. The key is in the lightness of being. Too much excitement or recognition, and the light can dissipate into the banality of boredom or judgement. Yet, we are all a team. No judgement, just the purity of love and acceptance. Sometimes, people are just curious or enjoy “hanging out.”
One resident has visited before, observing, making an occasional comment or questioning, “ what is going on, here?” She is keen, has a brilliant mind, can be sardonic and humorous. Late into the class, she welcomed the invitation to give it a try. Throughout the process, there was a running commentary: “This is about the strangest occupation I have ever had! What’s the point of all this? This is ridiculous!” When she completed her artwork, she exclaimed, “I did that?! No! I didn’t. I didn’t do that!” And a sly smile spread across the face of the 107-year-old woman.
Every visit I receive a mitzvah. I make a note to myself: slow down, open the heart and mind and be alert and anticipatory. Hiddur Mitzvah adds the joy of wonders in what I like to call “holy the ordinariness.”