Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Goodness of People in Bad Weather and Fair

Looking out the kitchen window and across the driveway one morning last week, I saw seven fat blackbirds ornamenting the top of the snow-covered limbs of the gum ball tree there.  By evening the tree was bare of snow and birds.  We have experienced constantly changing and varied weather recently. The ground that was covered with snow on Sunday morning had melted by afternoon, One day it seems like spring, and the next day we will have bitter cold and high winds.

One evening last week I looked out the living room windows where I often pause to enjoy the puff of white billowing clouds against the deep blue sky. That time, instead, the tranquil scene was of layered blue clouds against a white sky. Nothing could have seemed more peaceful, and I paused a long time. Only a few hours later as I was reading in that same room, a storm was raging and beating against the wall of windows. I felt warm and very peaceful to be inside all cozy and dry on such a wild night. 

Then I heard a loud noise of beating rain in the front of the house different from anything I remembered from past storms.  I jumped up to see if the roof was leaking since Gerald was already in bed. The unusual sound was only hard slanted rain blowing across the front porch and pounding the glass of the front door.  I was relieved to go back to being cozy with my book, and by the next morning the front porch was swept clean by that storm. 

However, our neighbor’s cousin over in the nearby town of Galatia was not so fortunate.  That family of four was hit by the tornado that came through; photos show only one of their four walls still standing. They were so thankful for coming through alive that they were not lamenting their loss but rejoicing. I don’t consider myself materialistic, but I feel complete awe when I think of people going through such devastation and having all their clothing and possessions and photographs gone forever. 

All those citizens in New York and New Jersey--still miserable and still bravely coping with their terrible problems in this winter weather--fill me with appreciation for the human spirit. A bus driver who gave his life in an effort to protect the children made me know how good some humans can become. The news media keeping Nathan’s last name out of the news and many people working night and day to rescue him made me thankful for all the goodness that exists. 

When Gerald and I drove Katherine to a Carbondale appointment at the end of last week, the snow was so dense it made driving slick and difficult.  Today her cousin Vicki drove Katherine to Cape Girardeau to see a physical therapist at the hospital’s rehabilitation center to help her decide what kind of chair might best replace her worn out one. The weather was so gorgeous that I decided to leave my coat behind in my car, and I did not regret it. 

Despite the good driving conditions, however, stops to help Katherine in her painful chair made us late.  Vicki, an authentic angel, climbed into the back more than once to adjust stiff arms and legs as Katherine directed.  When we breathlessly and worriedly arrived, both the wheelchair technician and the therapist were warm and kind and made us feel we were of utmost importance.  Both stayed late and spent generous time analyzing her condition and working together to determine how to help her have a more pain-free life. Since her hands would not allow her to drive her chair today, one of them drove her to the van and helped Vicki lock her chair in. Such service beyond ordinary duty as well as Vicki donating her day to help us reaffirmed my realization that so much goodness exists in this world.

Come rain or shine, there are always people who will go to great lengths to help their fellow man.  One good Samaritan will go back and check on a “sleeping” man in a parked car beside the road and save his life. (A young woman I know did this.)  Another good Samaritan will pay for a child’s shoes. (Another young woman I know did this—more than once.)  Another good Samaritan will leave his busy office and drive ten miles to lift someone into a wheelchair.  (My pastor did this for me.). People from area churches will drive to Carbondale to prepare a free Tuesday meal for tables full of international students studying at the university.  Other churches take responsibility to prepare a week’s worth of meals at our local soup kitchen. Plant employees will take turns to make a meal and send to a family where the mother’s is ill.  Volunteers keep our homeless shelter functioning and bring in special meals for holidays.  A former convict now reformed gives thanks for the local Salvation Army that supplied him with clothes and furniture when he started his new life.   Now he is counseling others released from prison and helping them get the skills they need to live productive lives.

There are people who are destructive and full of hate for themselves and others. We find that out too often. Yet there are also glorious amounts of people who constantly reach out to help friends, neighbors, and strangers. Oddly, through giving they gain competence, compassion, and deserved self esteem.  Our goal should be to move the haters to join the world’s helpers and reap the benefits that come from loving kindness.

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