When asked why I write stories about old people I tell them it’s because in the end, everyone needs to know their life mattered for something, if only somewhere on a page for someone to read. When no one takes time to ask, our elders’ stories die untold, unwritten, unread and presumed unimportant. Hundreds of undiscovered stories are buried alive every day and to me, that’s the most tragic story of all.
I think America’s problem might just be laziness after all. Our most important issues are complex, requiring time, careful navigation and critical thinking to arrive at the best solutions. But the lazy among us retire that process prematurely. They settle on narratives and emotionally laden hashtags to summarize their incompletely formed conclusions in hopes that enough likes will make them true.
They’re satisfied with never having completed the effort to arrive at the greater good through intentional and empathetic listening to the opposition for a truly informed decision.
America’s problems aren’t solved the lazy way, but the hard way: together, versus the coward’s way: alone.
My boss is the kind you wish for. Runs you ragged, expects more than you realize you can give, shows passion in even the smallest of pursuits, and plants rewards along the path to make you more hungry for the pain and heartache of being a servant. Not for their own benefit but for those desperately needing the someone you’re becoming.
When a parent dies, I believe God passes their souls directly through their children en route to heaven making that exact moment the one that hurts the most, hugs the closest, and instantly enlightens sons and daughters to the things of life that matter most long before our turn arrives.
Each morning I give my pup a little kiss and tell him to be a good boy as I close the door and turn the key. And each time, the same thought comes over me: I’m another day closer to the one I won’t return from, reminded that every act, gesture and moment with loved ones needs to mean a whole lot more today than it did even yesterday.
[Because some of life’s circumstances are meant to be unforgettable, no matter how hard you try.]
The 2am text hit my phone like a tow truck without a conscience.
It had been many sober years since his name popped up on my phone alongside the memories of that dark night when I almost lost my best friend.
“Can you call me?”
Some replies can wait until morning. I could tell this wasn’t one of them.
Two years into my sobriety five years back, this man saved two lives, one of which was mine.
Enough clean time under my belt to have known better that night, I let my new puppy, Butch, run into the street, only to get plowed by a tow truck, left spinning on the asphalt in pain from a broken leg. Not having the $1,500 to get him medical attention, an angel named Peter stepped in with a credit card at the last moment to foot a bill I have never repaid.
He’d insisted it was a gift from a fellow dog lover and we both were in a fury over the tow truck driver who’d fled the scene. My dog recovered, but apparently, Peter has not.
I phoned him.
He’d taken medical leave from work last winter and through a series of insurance foibles, he was forced to use the last of his savings over the past six months to keep himself alive. Now on public assistance and fighting insurance companies and for his life, he needed someone, and stat.
For those who follow me, it’s widely known my dog and I are an inseparable team. Now nearly five years old, he’s a Facebook celebrity and brings more joy to me than a life of drugs ever promised without delivering. The only reason he’s still here is because of an angel named Peter who now needs a tow truck.
We talked of the dominoes of his life which had fallen in rapid succession, bringing him to reluctantly call on those who he thought might be able to help in his own time of need. And as these stories often go, apparently, I’m the only one who returned his call.
I don’t make much in the non-profit world. I suppose that’s why it’s called non-profit. But I pay my rent and utilities and eat and love my dog and never forget visits from angels.
“I have never forgotten what you did for me and Butch, Peter, and despite how long it’s been, I also won’t be one of those people who don’t answer your call.”
Out of shame for asking, he cried on the phone and explained he wasn’t looking to be repaid. He’d forgiven the debt long ago and gently refused my offer four years back when we last talked. He said he called me because I’d always seemed different from everyone else, even during the days I was awash in drugs and lost in addiction.
We’re meeting this week and I will be giving him weekly assistance from my checking account to help him get back on his feet. And in my line of work, I can now offer him so much more than money to fish him out of the mess and stop the domino effect that has brought this angel down.
I came home and held my best friend on my lap, looking down at the scar on his hind leg from that once dark night. He glanced up at me, turned, and licked the scar as if to remind me that sometimes a tow truck needs a tow truck.
Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser, but I’ve noticed that the things which now bring me to tears are fewer the everyday instances of hurt, pain and sadness, but more the unexpected moments of joy, reconciliations and serendipity. Maybe as we advance in years and become more numbed to experiences of tragedy we become more easily moved to tears by the sudden simple beauties that were always before us but appeared at an untimely early age when we still believed the world owed us more.All I know is the less time I have left here the more important I find it is to plan a clean exit on a high note.This small epiphany and the wrinkles are how I know for certain that I’ve finally grown up.
Stop buying unnecessary things. Toss half your stuff. Learn contentedness. Reduce by half again. Pick four essential things in life and pause the rest. Do them first each day. Clear distractions. Focus on the moment. Let go of attachment to doing and having more. Fall in love with less. Cling to your human and its being.
At first I didn’t understand it. “Generosity is Power.”A friend sought to write her explanation juxtaposing the two and it didn’t register with me until my afternoon encounter with a family newly ejected to the street. Panicked at the task of surviving and truly helpless at their prospects, I explained where I work and what we do. This is their first experience at homelessness as will be the same for thousands more within 30 days as the eviction moratorium comes to an end and at a time when for many, financial ruin and real recovery failed to keep pace. As first-timers, this family—fully self-sufficient for the past decade—had no idea that places like HopeLink even existed. They’d never needed help before. Generosity is Power.It’s why you donate to places like HopeLink—for your generosity to empower the powerless with assistance and resources for a hand-up in moments of crisis like these and for those still to come. In a million years, they never imagined this day would arrive, nor that people whose goal it is to get them back on track exist in real life. They are humbled but ready and so are we—and it’s because of you. Thanks.
A complete stranger once believed you were worth it.
They never considered it optional, and always counted themselves lesser than the greater good. And because of it, now they are free from a nation they freed, yet lost to the lives they saved.
They wonder from the heavens in valor and silence at those of this barbecuing and too often forgetful nation who mark it up as an occupational hazard.
Happy Memorial Day isn’t entirely about being happy, but about taking one solitary thankful moment of silent honor away from people, pools and grills in prayer to recall the merits and consequences of their sacrifices made at any price. Indeed, the highest one.
Then go back and eat your burger, jump in the water, hang with your family and friends and for that reason be very, very happy that a complete stranger in history once believed you were worth it.