Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The holidays are the perfect time to spread a little kindness

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There are some messages that I like to repeat every year. One of them is to think about Christmas giving a little differently than we usually do. Therefore, I will once again repeat that message. You may have heard about killing someone with kindness. This does not often occur. As a matter of fact we do not use kindness enough. Christmas is a time of peace and good will. It is also a time for kindness. It is a time to bring joy to others. The power of giving to someone is tremendous. We have all seen a child's eyes light up when they open a present. That same kind of joy is something we experience when we see it happen. Good feelings like those are great stress relievers. They also improve our overall mental health. I would like to examine some of the things we can do for others at this time of year. It will do them and us a world of good. There are some things that we all do out of habit. We send Christmas cards to friends. We give Christmas gifts to family. We wish Merry Christmas to acquaintances. They are all upbeat things to do. However, I would like to offer some other ways of bringing a smile to people at Christmas. Some of these things are known as random acts of kindness. Christmas is a great time for doing them. Many of us will be spending time on the road. That means things like traffic jams and toll booths. It offers us a perfect opportunity. Being courteous to other drivers at a merge point is a neat thing to do. Letting someone move in line ahead of you will cost only seconds. However, courtesy is indeed contagious. They may do the same for the next guy. Another inexpensive act is to pay the toll for the car behind you at the toll booth. You can tell the toll taker to wish them a Merry Christmas for you. Figuring out how to do this when you have EZ-Pass presents more of a challenge. Perhaps going out of your way to not use the EZ-Pass is just that something extra that would be giving above and beyond. When we send out cards, we have a yearly list. That list usually includes people we know and like. There are always some individuals that we really do not like. We would never think about sending a card. Maybe this is the year to send them one. As a matter of fact, you might want to think about sending a card to someone that you definitely do not want to wish well. It is not good will only to people we like. It is a time for us to spread that good will to everyone. There are certain people who expect gifts from us. They will be disappointed if they do not get one. However, there are many people who do things for us all year round. We often take them for granted. This is where gift giving can be very uplifting. The idea is to remember them. It is to thank them for what they have done. We sometimes do this so that we look like a nice guy when we do so. I suggest that you give the gift anonymously. You can add a thank you note. Remember the important thing is to lift the individual's spirits. You can do that with an appropriate gift and note. You really do not need thanks in return. As a matter of fact your thanks will often be the excitement of the recipient trying to find out who gave the gift. Many organizations collect things for distribution to people at Christmas time. We often think that contributing items for distribution is sufficient. However, someone has to assist with that distribution. Our time is valuable. It is usually more valuable than the items we donate. Giving of our time to help in the distribution is an important addition. This may be the year to do that. Giving time to others is important. Giving time to our families is more important. We do not do it enough. A Christmas present for the children gets opened quickly. Frequently the rest of the family goes about their business. Try taking some time with your children to play with the toys you bought them. One of the things I frequently prescribe for my adolescent patients is playing games. Conversations with adolescents are often arguments. When you play games, you tend to talk to each other about non-controversial things. You also tend to spend more time together than usual. My prescription for the family at Christmas is to play one hour of games together a day. In a similar vein, Christmas dinner seldom lasts longer than a usual dinner. It just tends to have a better choice of food. I come from an Italian family. Our holiday dinners started at 3 p.m. with antipasto. This was followed by the pasta and trimmings. We then had the main course and side dishes. That was followed by dessert and finally fruit and nuts. We usually left the table for good after 8 p.m. What was really important was not the amount we ate. It was the amount of time we spent together as a family doing it. Statistics suggest that spouses spend less than an hour in real conversation a week. The same is true of parents and children. The rest of the time is spent on quick comments, not real conversation. There are a lot of opportunities for us to improve the mental health of those around us at Christmas. In turn our own mental health will be improved. The aim is not to kill everyone with kindness. It is to show them all that kindness is healthy. Christmas is the ideal time to spread that kindness.

Hospice offers 'Living Well' course "Living Well" with chronic conditions is a free self-management course that can help you get the most out of life. Anyone living with heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other chronic diseases will benefit from this six-week course, offered by Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center. Participants are welcome to invite a friend, caregiver or relative. Classes begin Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and will be held every Thursday through Feb. 11, 2010, in the Community Conference Room of the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford. All six classes are recommended. Pre-registration is required by Jan. 5. To register, contact Tucker at 463-1054 or

Hospice presents sibling lecture "Tears for a Sibling" will be the topic of January's Lunch Bunch Lecture by the Family Support Center at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, on Friday, Jan. 8, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Open to the community, Dr. Judy Pierson, licensed clinical psychologist, will discuss the unique circumstances surrounding the death of a sibling. A donation of $3 per person for the cost of lunch is suggested. To register, call Vicki Costa at 856-7717, ext. 1129, or email

Develop a healthier lifestyle A seven week tobacco cessation class is available at no charge to the public. The class provides group support, advice, and helpful information on diet, exercise, stress reduction, nicotine replacement and other strategies for kicking the tobacco habit. The next tobacco cessation class at Milford Memorial Hospital begins on Jan. 7 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and meets every Thursday for seven weeks. To register for the tobacco cessation class, call 744-7135. To sign up nutritional and dietary consultations, call 744-6842.

Man to Man support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers a Man to Man support group meeting on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Man to Man helps men cope with prostate cancer by receiving information and peer support. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Larry Skala (337-3678) or Grafton Adams (628-8311).

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Monthly support group Compassionate Care Hospice, The Wellness Community-DE and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will collaborate to present a monthly bereavement group, The Next Step. The group focuses on issues of loss that continue beyond the early stages of grief. Mary Van House, bereavement coordinator, will facilitate the group at 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, at the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, second floor conference room. To register, call Lisa at 629-6611, ext. 2378.

Depression Support Group There is a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

Spencer named director Nanticoke Health Services announces that Helen Spencer, RN, COHN-S, LNC has joined Nanticoke's Occupational Health Services as administrative director, after having served as Nanticoke's Occupational Health interim director. Spencer will be responsible for managing Occupational Health Services programs provided to Nanticoke Health Services and local area employers. Spencer, a certified occupational health nurse, comes to Nanticoke with more than 30 years of occupational health experience. She graduated from St. Paul University in Manila, has worked for the Federal government and as an occupational health nurse consultant and supervisor.

Tricarico named vice president Nanticoke Memorial Hospital announces that Donald J. Tricarico Jr., RN, MSA, CNOR, has been named to the position of vice president of Clinical Operations. Tricarico joined Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on July 1, 2008 as director of Surgical Services. In his new position, Tricarico will play a critical role in the delivery of patient care services in collaboration with physicians and other health care providers. This includes planning strategic and operational issues, service design and resource allocation, and staff leadership. He will also coordinate assigned care areas to maximize patient services and outcomes and improve service. His background includes more than 20 years in the military and private sector of healthcare. Six years before working with Nanticoke, he was the director of Surgical Services in a hospital that mirrors Nanticoke in both size and rural setting. Besides having a BSN from the University of Delaware, he has a master's of science in administrative management, has his certified nurse operating room certification and has written several publications.