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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Touching the Past

I just wanted to share this wonderful blog post for those of you who may not be familiar with Jon Zech.

I'll not tell you what it's about, but trust me, it's great. So is all of his writing, so while you're there, I encourage you to have a look around the archives.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Magical Mondays - Gifts and Gratitude

Please forgive me because I know this will ramble. Forgive me also if I've posted about some of it before.

The original blog plan today was to write about the gifts we sometimes give and receive without realizing just how timely they are when we're in the process of giving them. However, there were some other things that happened today that caught my attention as well.

For instance, Lana mentioned driving around with a scanner she'd planned on giving to Goodwill, but when she spontaneously asked some friends if they'd like one, she discovered they'd just been discussing how much they'd like to have one right before she showed up.

Recently, Edie also spontaneously received the gift of a laptop from which she can print her manuscripts just when her computer went kaput.

When I was moving from IL to AZ a few years back, I experienced a couple of those moments from the giving side. On one of the days before I was due to leave, I was running out of time to get rid of everything I had so I drove several miles to drop off a large number of very nice coat hangers to the Salvation Army, only to discover they didn't want them. As I drove home, I wondered what the heck I was going to do with them, and hated to throw them away.

I drove past a Wendy's when I had a sudden urge to pull in - not because I was hungry or thirsty - I just felt like I should. I didn't even understand it at the time. I asked myself why I had pulled in there and decided to just get a drink from the drive-thru. The woman at the register commented on all the coat hangers I had, so I jokingly asked if she'd like to have them. She said, "Oh, yes, please! I never have enough hangers for my or my kids' clothes and I can't afford to buy them."

A few days after that, I was distraught because I couldn't get a charity to pick up the furniture I had and I didn't have time to sell it. (The charities wouldn't pick it up because my apartment had four steps they had to go up and down - they said I'd have to move everything outside.) I was practically in tears wondering how I'd manage that with no help, but I managed to drag a desk up the stairs and to the curb. Since that hurt my back, I also worried how I'd manage to clean everything later.

But as I started to turn away from the curb to go back inside, a van stopped and two women got out. Only one of them spoke English, and she asked if I was throwing the desk away, and if so, could the other lady have it. I said sure, and she told me the other woman had nothing - no furniture at all. I told her I had an apartment full if they could just pick it up.

I took them inside to show her and the woman started crying. She and her two little boys had been eating and sleeping on the floor for several months (they were recent immigrants). She was so happy, she not only helped me finish packing what few things I was taking with me, she also came back after they picked up the furniture and cleaned the whole apartment for me. It turned out to be a blessing for both of us.

Now, on to the gratitude ramble...

I'm ashamed to say that lately, I've been feeling ridiculously sorry for myself for one reason or another. Today, though, I had a couple of rude awakenings.

I work as a curriculum writer in a hospital, and I had to interview some of the radiologists today to go over their workflows in preparation for a new electronic record system that will go live in June. (I'll be writing the manuals for it.)

Well, first of all, the poor radiologists don't have the best of working conditions - it was dark, cramped and miserably hot where they were. I thought I was going to pass out from the heat. I felt bad for having complained earlier about it being too warm in my office. It was nothing compared to what they're working in.

But what got to me the most wasn't seeing where they worked, it was seeing what they were working on. I was surrounded by images of patients' brain, lung, breast and stomach tumors. I saw the horrendously curved spine of someone who couldn't breath without a tube in his throat because the curvature of his spine caused all his internal organs to shift. His lungs looked like they were laying sideways.

I wrapped up my tour not long before I had to catch my train. Seated in front of me on the train, was an obviously agitated man. When his cell phone rang, I overheard him say his aunt and uncle had just been killed in a car accident and he was on his way to handle the arrangements for them. He received several phone calls where he had to explain to people why he wasn't at work and where he was going. After one of those calls, he just broke down and sobbed.

He couldn't see me, but I started crying with him. He was a big, rough looking guy and it was just so heartbreaking. I searched for a tissue to give him, but didn't have one. I wanted to hug him, but thought it might make him uncomfortable. In the end, I had to settle with touching his shoulder on my way off the train and telling him how sorry I was for his loss. He looked stunned, but then he smiled and seemed genuinely grateful that someone had expressed an interest in his well-being.

My heart goes out to him and his family, as well as to those patients and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. I hope they will find peace, health and happiness, and that their needs are met in ways that cause them to feel blessed.

I realized again today that I have much to be grateful for. I hope you do too. What are some small or large blessings for which you are thankful?