This is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever had to write; but as I have been challenged by “CoastalMom”, (and it was “seconded” by others) I felt compelled to oblige…
Besides, I know it will be good for my psyche.
I am writing about all of the things I can think of that I have done right or good in my life; please note, these may not be in chronological order, simply in the order I can remember them.
When I was a sophomore in high school and rode the bus, there was a new kid in school riding who got on the bus the stop after mine. He was tall, awkward, wore glasses, and was one of the shyest kids I had ever seen. Well, to be fair, since I have no filter on my mouth and will talk to anybody, I have a challenging time distinguishing shy from quiet…
When he would get on the bus, the other kids would scoot over or put their book bags on the seat so he could not sit down. He would walk down the center aisle of the bus with his head hanging low, eyes downcast, looking for an available seat.
I had been the “new kid” only a month before and had felt the same stinging humiliation he was feeling, but I handled it a bit differently. I bounced down the aisle wearing my yellow mini skirt and Rick Springfield printed tee with the lettering stating, “I love Rick” on the back; I dared anybody not to notice me. With confidence, I walked up to the cutest loser on the bus and demanded a seat next to him… it was never ending love for the next three weeks.
After a few days of watching the nerdy kid trying to get a seat I looked at the empty space beside me as he walked by, “You can sit here,” I loudly called out as he passed by. I could see by the looked on his face he was stunned.
“Hey, thanks,” he said as he sat beside me listening to the taunts and jeers from my ex wanna be a professional skater boyfriend and his equally talented buddies. We sat together every day after that and he said later he was always grateful for my simple gesture.
As challenging as my relationship with my mother has been, I have never lashed back at her. Often, others have suggested I treat her in the same shabby way she treats me, but I have always understood she has had a difficult life and probably only treats me the way she does out of a lack of knowing any better.
I used to work at a large corporation where my position was accounting/payroll and backup human resources. The majority of the employees had a challenging time with the woman who was the human resources manager, she was cold, indifferent, and did not embrace the company’s open door policy; as a result, many of the employees would come to me with their personal problems.
One particular man would come to me with issues such as an issue he was having with the IRS; he could not understand the paperwork. He simply needed to fax some things, so I looked it over and faxed the information for him. He would always say, “I’m just a dumb ole’ shop guy with an eighth grade education, I don’t know nothin’ bout office machines or anything. Thank you so much for the help.” I was more than happy to help him, and it really did not take much time.
The human resources manager would often comment how it was not part of my job and I did not have to do it; I imagine that was part of the reason nobody liked her and preferred to come to me. I actually liked that employees felt they could come to me; I realized it was not my job, but I enjoyed helping them.
The same employee with the IRS issue was casually talking to me one day about his elderly mother; she lived in a trailer and had been duped by a dishonest contractor who promised a roof repair. The man took $800 then had not performed the promised repairs. His mother lived on a fixed income and could not afford any more money; to make matters worse; this man only made $9 an hour at our company and could do little to help his mother.
After listening to him, I could not ignore the situation; I called a friend of mine that I had not talked to for several years and sheepishly asked for help. I knew he had many contacts in the area and had done a lot of this nature. In a matter of a few days, he coordinated a roof repair, an air conditioning unit, and some much needed yard work.
I suppose I really did not do anything other than get them in contact with each other, my friend really did all of the work; I was simply a catalyst. Perhaps this should not be on my list.
While working at a manufacturing company, I had the opportunity to hire an employee through a temporary agency. I asked for some specific qualifications such as the ability the prolific use of Excel and other Microsoft Office products. After screening several candidates, the organization sent over a young man they felt would fill our needs.
The first day, it was apparent he did not know any of the computer software programs I had required; however, he was brilliant. He spoke several languages and held a degree in international business studies; I was confused about why this young man was looking for work through temporary means.
I soon came to learn he was working to get his passport and other documentation to become a teacher in Beijing, teaching English to elementary school children. I was thrilled for him; he was such a wonderful young man. Over a few short weeks he became like a son to me; he was a doppelganger of my daughter’s boyfriend, a smarter, taller version. He had a few socially awkward moments, but he was witty, intelligent, and could be incredibly funny if you understood his humor.
Then, one day, he came into my office and confided in me; he was a felon. Seven years earlier, he had been convicted of killing his brother when his brother had come at him in a drug-induced state while they were boarding together at college. As I listened to him describe the scene, how he tried to resuscitate him after stabbing him, and was still giving him CPR when the police came, then how he was convicted, and how his dad could not forgive him, my heart broke for him. He was so young, and so innocent; he may have been twenty-six, but he was just a boy.
I shared my story with him, about how my mother had killed my father; we bonded over trials, lawyers, and the court systems. He was grateful I had listened and not judged.
I protected his secret for as long as I could; until somebody who went to school with his brother recognized him and printed everything he could find from the Internet. Afterwards, people in the office started talking about him; I even had one close friend ask me about him and call him a murderer. She asked me if I had been afraid the time I took him to lunch… all I could do was shake my head thinking about the time she met my mother wondering if she had been afraid of her.
It has been two years and we still keep in touch; he has often said I was the kindest person he had ever met. I feel like all I did was to be compassionate to a kid who needed it at the time; the same thing anybody would do.
In 1997, my second husband (then boyfriend) broke his back snowboarding; he was in the trauma unit for five days. I only left the hospital one time, to pack a bag. Other than that, I slept on a cot next to his bed in ICU, then in a chair in his regular room until the day he left.
The hospital had a program called the VIP Program, Very Important Partner Program; they encouraged family members to stay with patients to help them recover. The person could help the nurses perform simple tasks such as getting ice chips, blankets, or anything else the patient may need; it made for a more pleasant stay for the patient and freed up the time for the nurses.
He has Crohn’s Disease so was hospitalized two more times; I stayed each time, playing games, performing as a liaison between him and the nurses, and taking care of anything he wanted or needed. I heard the nurses talking about him in the hallway, they were thankful I was there, to say the least; he was an extremely difficult patient.
My nephew was in the hospital for a burst appendix when he was sixteen; it had been ruptured for a few months before the doctor had discovered it, so he was extremely sick. As my sister’s family lived about 45 miles out-of-town, she stayed with him while he was convalescing.
Every morning before I would go to work, I would stop by and bring her breakfast I had prepared for her at home; usually an egg on English muffin with cheese and ham wrapped in foil to keep it hot. Then on my lunch hour I would go sit with him so she could go to my house and shower; for being sixteen, it was remarkable to me how needy he was and could not be left alone for an hour. After work, I would go home and make dinner for my family, then take some down to my sister.
A month later, my husband was in the hospital for 5 days and I needed some help with my daughters; I asked for them to spend the weekend at my sister’s house because they had already spent 3 days at their grandparents, she declined. My husband did not understand, and thought I should cut her out of my life; I could not do it, citing the tough life we had as children.
As a little girl in New Mexico, there was a girl who wore the same thing to school every day, she wore a long denim skirt to her ankles and a blue shirt. Her hair was always a mess and she smelled like urine; her name was CB. Nobody would play with her on the playground, and even the teacher seemed to treat her differently; she was smelly and dirty.
After school, as the bus drove by her place it was easy to see why CB was so unkempt; her home looked like Sanford and Son’s place. There was litter strewn about and dilapidated outbuildings and cars all about the property.
We sat together on the bus and chatted, because I cannot help myself no matter where I go; we played together on the playground; because that’s what kids do; and I asked her to stay overnight, but she was never allowed. I think I was her only friend. However, I only went to school there for a year, so I don’t know whatever happened to CB… sometimes I imagine her leaving Thoreau and growing into a beautiful princess…
I used to work with a woman who everybody thought was highly unpleasant to put it nicely; and she was. She was abrupt, challenging, and sometimes downright nasty; however, if you took the time to talk to her, you would find out that she had a nine-year-old daughter who lived with her ex-husband, she now had a lesbian life partner, and she could actually be quite pleasant at times.
When she found out she had cancer and was put on disability, most people in the office really did not seem to care; especially our human resources manager who was neither human nor resourceful. So, when she came in to turn in get some help with her disability paperwork and was getting nowhere with the HR manager, I sat down with the daunting stack of redundant questions and powered through them one at a time with her until we finished the packet.
The next time she came in to complete her forms and collect signatures from her supervisor I gave her a basket of goodies I had been collecting for her and had shrink-wrapped. I bought her some candy, a candle, some crosswords, magazines, and other stuff to while away the time while she was at her chemotherapy appointments hoping to bring a smile to her face.
She thanked me; that was the last time I ever saw her. I hear she recovered well.
I suppose I can think of a few more, but I am starting to feel this post is getting quite long, and I have to fight the urge continuously to interject the negative…
Thank you, CoastalMom, for the inspiration.