This past July, I started a part-time job with the local paper with little idea of what I wanted to do, but knew that writing for a newspaper would hone and improve my writing abilities. The other benefit was getting out of the house and meeting the people of this community. My hermit capabilities are legendary and the tendency to enjoy that alone time is limitless. If there is one thing I know, it is that alone time is fine, but too much of it is not.
Adapting to working again proved to be more challenging than I had originally thought and, at times, it was almost overwhelming. During one dilemma, I had to make up my mind as to whether or not to continue. It finally occurred to me that the times that were trying would pass and I would want my job once more. I made a deal with myself to stay for a year and decide then. Right now, I’m not sure if I would ever quit. This one little job has presented a golden opportunity to meet some wonderful people all of whom I call friends now.
First, it was a lady who suffered through many of the same life traumas as me and managed to teach multiple handicapped deaf children. The next were a father and son team who race on the local dirt track. They were charming, fun and totally interesting. Another was a husband/wife team who took on a 105 year old house that had once been the local grocery store. She had filled it literally thousands of antiques and just plain old stuff. My eyes couldn’t see fast enough all the stuff she had acquired over her lifetime. For her Christmas Open House, she decorated 34 trees, baked enough cookies, brownies, and other goodies, completed other decor, and could still stand there welcoming people into the home she is so proud of. They would have to hospitalize me for a month if I did all that.
This week it was a bell ringer and the head of the local Salvation Army office. I heard so many stories of how blessed all they and the fellow volunteers and employees are to be doing what they do. The Lieutenant was a young man still in his twenties who not only ran the office but also is the pastor. He is so impressive seeing his youth as a disadvantage when the reality shows that it isn’t. He has a heart bigger than anyone and deals with the despair and need with the enthusiasm of youth.
I had a mental list of questions for the bell-ringer most made from preconceived ideas. Turns out she is from Florida and a Katrina survivor. She lost everything except for a few things gathered in the few minutes alloted before she had to leave her house for a shelter. She is very together and making a new life, one that is not filled with material things, but rather the peace and joy of surviving and doing as she chooses.
These people have all made a mark on my heart and life reminding me that we all struggle, all of us have painful, major losses, and that resiliency is the armor for facing life. Each of them and all the others gave me the gift of opening their lives and allowing me to share it with others. The richness of this gift received warms and humbles me. Learning about them teaches me about the good that exists in all of us not just at Christmas, but all year round.