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Posts Tagged ‘appreciation’

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. (Rita Mae Brown)

Stories, the real-life kind. I talk to a friend as she relays an incident involving someone whom she has known her entire life. The young man has mental illness. Voices led him to rob a bank. No gun. He doesn’t own one. He had a knife. And didn’t use it. The threat was enough. Yet, this seriously disturbed man has been the comfort and support of a woman who is severely handicapped. She is alone now. In another state. 

Now, the young man is in jail. The fate by law of a bank robber… I step down now from extreme examples. How often does anyone know the full story about anyone? 

I like to think I’m allergic to judgment. Yet, I’ve come to strong conclusions concerning far less.

These two examples may not be spoken, but they are nevertheless real.

“Turn off your cell phone and pay attention to traffic.” Yes, distracting calls on the road are a dangerous practice. However, do I know how important the conversation is? About the closest liquor store? Maybe. A lost senior citizen… A dying family member… Not within my limited perception.

“Where did you learn grammar? From bubble-gum pop music?” Okay. I admit it. I grimace when I hear, “I can’t wait no more for you.” Maybe this young man needs school before he marries Paula. Yes, it’s a judgment. But I know it.

I met an uneducated, yet wise woman years ago. I wrote about her and published a short story in an Appalachian press about her. The book I wrote remains in limbo. For publication someday, when the virus fog rises. However, when I remember Gladys, I gain better perspective.

During these enclosed, time-to-reflect hours, I may not be able to cure the world. I can cleanse my thinking. And expand my ability to care. Opportunity comes in strange forms. May I find it in the rubble.

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open door

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. (Ernest Hemingway

In 2012 I wrote a journal during Lent when memories of trauma ate through the present. Today I survive, as imperfectly as everyone else. I decided to reread an entry or two. This story appeared on an ordinary Wednesday when I was babysitting two of my granddaughters. Rebe was four and Ella was a toddler:  

I’m rinsing breakfast dishes as the doorbell rings. Jay is busy with Ella, so I answer. Outside a young girl stands sobbing. She asks to use our phone.

     “Who are you?” I ask.

     She doesn’t answer. Instead she tells me her boyfriend beat her up, and she wants to call the police.

     Jay is standing behind me by now. He holds Ella. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want this girl standing out in the cold. I let her in and get her a glass of water, then finish the dishes as she calls from our living room.

     When I get back, Ella blows kisses to her and the girl smiles and tells me she has a one-year-old child.

     “How old are you?”

     “Eighteen.”

     The girl’s skin is a flawless ebony. I would have guessed she was much younger.

     While I don’t watch the clock, it seems like a long time until two policewomen arrive in two separate cars.

     We leave the room. I need to change Ella’s diaper anyway. On our way into the bedroom we hear one of the officers ask, “So why do you stay with him?”

     Apparently this is not a first-time event.

     After the girl leaves with bus money we provide, one of the policewomen comes back into the house and chides us for our kindness. This girl’s live-in is trouble. It is her choice to remain in jeopardy. Drugs are an issue.

       We should have called the police and made her stay on the porch. Twenty-twenty hindsight. (Although, an addition added to this entry in 2020, I doubt I would have followed her advice. After all, an abused eighteen-year-old girl is a child in need.)

Ella as a baby

       I am relieved later while Ella and Rebe watch Caillou, a children’s cartoon show, where a lost toy dinosaur is the only problem. Two little girls wrapped in the discovery of a stuffed toy and the loving concern of Caillou’s father.

     Real life isn’t always that sweet. I have been fortunate. My flaw today was trust. Yet, I pray that our little Ella’s blown kisses can be a blessing into the soul of this lost girl. A seed, perhaps. One that can grow someday, even if I never see it blossom.

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She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it.) Lewis Carroll

Take one opinion.

Call it the whole.

Shout your words

with venom if necessary.

Cover your home,

your car, every space you touch

with bumper stickers, clever words,

succinct, biting,

so simple and transparent

an ostrich could strut

your message across a zoo.

Then flick on the television,

curl up in your favorite chair,

or lie on a distant beach,

and revel in the comfort of your truth.

Relax, with food and wine within reach,

your part completed.

 

(originally published in For A Better World)

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I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine. (Neil Armstrong)

 Sure, the word challenge has an encouraging, powerful ring to it. However, human experience adds a bite to it, the kind that draws blood, pain, or detours.

I was experiencing one of those Atlas-earth-carrying moments when I noticed an old homemade card on the floor by my bookcase. Huh? What is this? It looks familiar.

A birthday card from my father. He died more than ten years ago. He comments on the years since I was born, then mentions what a beautiful person I have become.

The how of the card’s appearance now, on a floor that was vacuumed yesterday, is curious. But the message is clear. I am worth the effort of any struggle.

I remember a night when I was sixteen. I hallucinated as the result of a dangerously high fever from a throat infection. As the fever rose I claimed the colors were wrong on my dresser drawers and stairs and needed to be rearranged. Now.

Both dresser and steps were an everyday, nondescript beige. Then I needed to take the number one million and convert it into a tangible object. Before morning. And take it to school. My arms churned as I counted. One-hundred-fifty, one-hundred-fifty-one.

My mother panicked as she hunted for aspirin, the fury of her feet on the floor amplifying my count. Somehow my parents managed to get me to swallow the small white tablet.

My dad told me he was good at math. He would do my assignment. Then, he would take care of the colored wood as I slept. After all, he knew a lot about paint. He carried me up the stairs to my room.

Somehow, that next morning I remembered most of the evening. The absurdity struck me as a nightmare, someone else’s nightmare. And yet, the loving response of my dad stayed with me.

I hold the long-ago card now. My father present in this moment even if he left the earth in a past decade during the last century.

“Thanks. I wouldn’t be here without you,” I whisper. My life is finite, too. May the heartbeats I have left, bring peace.

 

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Surprisingly lovely, precious days. What is there to say except: Here they are: Sifting through my fingers like sand. (Joyce Carol Oates)

Our neighbor came to our door with a ladder and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. We had a broken bulb in a ceiling light. My husband and I could fix it, but we have physical limitations. The job could take an unreasonable amount of time. Our neighbor came to bring light into our bedroom. He succeeded.

His wife had come earlier to help me with a task difficult for my arthritic fingers. Both husband and wife bring brightness into our home.

Precious moments. Simple, yet savored.

I recall times when friends come and share the difficulties in their lives. I listen. Blessed by more than sun. They trust me. I share my struggles. We recognize strength. Human bonds. Gratitude.

Ugly loses its power when the genuine person inside reaches for precious instead of perfect.

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Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being… Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

Hygge time. A Danish concept. Moments when we are grateful and aware of the now. Not yesterday or tomorrow. Snow falls while Jay and I sip coffee.

He tells me about someone he met at the pool. “I killed two kids,” the man told him.

My first thoughts are DUI or an accident, but this is my time to listen. The man is a veteran. He followed the command to shoot. Children sometimes carried explosives. The dead are not people; they are the enemy. Saved by the military.

Jay tells him it wasn’t his fault. He did what he was told to do. The man answered, “But I pulled the trigger.”

Now that moment explodes through the man’s head. A mantra called PTSD, created by the battlefield. Guilt with no place to go. He wants someone to apologize for the command. Jay can only listen, a powerful tool for the moment. Not an immediate answer.

The man left the pool.

I had been looking out our front window and watching the lines formed by the houses in our neighborhood. The homes. I look for the focal point I have been discovering in art class. As a student at age 73.

Even a simple line remains true and honest, then easily misunderstood by point of view. A tilted camera. An I-already-know attitude. In the photo I didn’t want a picture of my car, the house across the street. I didn’t want the half-iced street. This tilt is obvious. Not every slant is.

In the picture I know the difference. In real life, perception can be blurry in ways that have nothing to do with eyesight.

The whiteness won’t stay. Neither will ten o’clock on a February Saturday morning. However, I hope the integrity inherent in a few moments on an ordinary couch, remains and grows into whatever I need to be now. Into tomorrow. Into each giving opportunity as it opens.

 

 

 

 

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At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: “I love you, you did the best you could today, and even if you didn’t accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway. (Francois)

Turn on the news. Try not to scream, or worse, cry in despair. Integrity has been attacked. The legal system in the United States has been destroyed. Untrue statements repeat as valid, creating powerful weapons against justice. Absurdity and hate reach a crescendo.

And the notion that an honest tomorrow is promised, falls short.

So, why try to fight evil? Because I have value. You have value. The folk who have been misled have value. I remember a picture I took in County Clare in Ireland a year and a half ago. During a drought. A plant was growing through a hole in a rock. The growth didn’t happen quickly. It did happen after persistence.

To remain capable of giving even as the world seems to crumble. To smile, honestly, at a critic. Not easy. And no, I haven’t earned a halo. I have done the best I could today. May the rock break open just a little bit more. With the counter-weapon of compassion, while continuing to speak truth.

 

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