Oh, What a Relief it Is!

My arm is sore, my fever finally broke, and my bottle of Advil is emptied.  However, yippee and Howdy Doody, I am vaccinated against the coronavirus!  Do you remember the Alka Seltzer commercial, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is!?” If you do, then you know why I was qualified to receive the vaccine.  

 There is satisfaction in knowing I contributed to kicking the dickens out of COVID.  So, I endured a few days of discomfort to further the cause of healing a world, and I need a new bottle of Advil. So what? It was such a small price to pay!

 Our children desperately need to return to the classroom, so I will gladly do my part to see them get there.    When folks are begging for food, jobs, stability, and sanity, we all must do what we can to keep each other from falling through the cracks of a fractured world.

Ending a pandemic

I am unnerved by those healthy individuals who can be safely vaccinated but refuse to do so out of fear, misinformation, or political partisanship.” So upset, I am afraid I might poke them with my one functioning arm! How selfish we can become when we put our personal bias before other’s complete misery.  

Sure, we do not know with complete certainty the conclusive results of the COVID vaccines, but we are confident this pandemic will not end without them.  

My relatives succumbed to the Spanish Flu of 1918 in droves, and their ancestors died of Typhoid Fever in multitudes.  Polio ended my friend’s life and left others disabled.    Smallpox took out half a BILLION people between 1880 and 1980 before it was eradicated.  The smallpox vaccine is considered dangerous as well, but what if it never existed?  I doubt you would be alive to read this story today.

Science saves lives

When I was a child, we formed school lines for vaccines and tests to be administered.   We were given no choice; we did so because it was better than the alternative.  Sometimes, the risk is worth it for the well-being of humankind.  Sure, something can go wrong in a horrible twist of fate.  However, how do you know it was not you or your child who would be lying in a grave today without a vaccination?

When the entire elementary school took their turns to be tested for tuberculosis in the early 1950s, I was the only child to test positive.   Luckily, in the end, I did not have the disease, but I do have a trail of mysterious scars on my lungs.  What if a TB test had not existed and I was positive? How many would have died from me being infected?

In the 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death due to its transmission rate.  Today, most cases are cured by proper diagnosis and the administering of antibiotic drugs for many months. However, in 2019, 1.4 million people worldwide still succumbed to TB.  How many more would there be without the invention of the antibiotic?

 How many lives have scientists saved?  Yet, we still often refuse to listen to medical science and advice.  

When I read an unproven theory about vaccines’ dangers, following the science, or folks pitting politics against medicine, I wonder how those who espouse such beliefs are even alive.  Did they not receive polio, smallpox, whooping cough, typhoid, or tetanus vaccines during their lifetime? Did a doctor or a politician administer them?

Dangerous distrust

 What do these dangerous folks gain by broadcasting skepticism over reason? Are we willing to pay the price if we listen or support them?

I believe the idea of promoting fear to gain recognition or a following is one of the vilest and most cruel acts we can possibly do today. I am ready to get a vaccine to eradicate such scrounge.

Cynicism and distrust should never overtake common sense.  Fear should never replace courage because when it does, it will kill us all.

The medical community of scientists, caregivers, and pharmacology can make mistakes, but how many times have they gotten it right?  How many lives have been saved by research and medical advances?  Probably, one of those or many saved yours.

  Oh, what a relief that is!

Observing the Power of Kindness

We were in a hotel enjoying a Sunday brunch a few years ago when I observed a woman standing at the small bar ordering a cocktail.  After watching her for a few moments, I discerned she was intoxicated, and I began to worry.  

I looked to see who might have accompanied her but soon realized she was alone.   I felt strangely uncomfortable and could not keep my eyes off the slim woman.  Suddenly, she fell backward onto the floor, hitting her head.

I ran to her, grabbed her hand, and asked if she was in pain. She clutched my fingers as if she did not want to let go.  Her glazed eyes investigated my face without speaking a word.  

I realized no one moved until I yelled for someone to call 911. Was I thinking unusually fast that day, or did others seem unusually slow?   The manager strolled toward us, and as I explained what happened, he, too, was in no hurry to obtain aid until I emphatically said, “Please!

Why bother?

The omelet stations never missed a beat handing patrons’ plates full of fluffy eggs filled with bacon or ham, nor did the waiters stop pouring coffee.  Children kept eating syrup-laden pancakes; a customer asked for another napkin, another for a clean fork, as the woman continued lying still on the floor. 

To this day, it has disturbed me that no one, other than one staff member, cared to move from their position of comfort.  They all judged the stranger unworthy of their time and consideration because her condition was obviously of her own doing.  So, why go to the trouble to offer kindness?  Why bother to teach children not to ignore the fallen or never to judge? 

The ambulance arrived and drove the woman away as waiters cleared the dishes, and folks proceeded to go about their Sunday morning without pause, leaving compassion on their tables.   

I have this theory about living life.  Whatever we do not do for another, our callousness will be returned in full measure.  It is akin to leaving the shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot and walking away.  I figure God just observed our lazy actions, so when we least expect it, a speeding out-of-control cart will plow right into the passenger side of our shiny, new car.

Doing the right things

When we miss an opportunity to do the right thing, we choose to ignore the eyes of God, and we always pay the price.

 Trust me; I was no hero in the restaurant. Maybe it was just my day to notice unkindness.  As I recall that Sunday, I wonder how many times have I overlooked others’ misery and heartache?  How many times did I disregard God’s eyes as he gazed upon my transgressions? I guess I will find out when He brings the judgment book to the Pearly Gates.  I can guarantee there is going to be reckoning for yours truly. 

Since the tattoo parlors are now open, perhaps we should have this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson inked onto our arms: “You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.”

How many times have we passed despair, grief, or need and never turned back to offer kindness?  Perhaps today is the day we should all start paying better attention.  Every act of compassion will result in healing, and open wounds will become scars. And boy, do we require stitches!

Years ago, I worked for a boss who was as harsh as one could imagine.  She could lose her temper and behave like a child, but she always responded when she recognized a need.

Kindness in action

After making a mistake in my checkbook calculations one month,  I realized I did not have enough money to make it to another payday.  I had three children to feed and questioned how in the world I was going to get by.  To this day, I do not understand how she knew of my plight, but she took my hand and placed a folded $100 bill in my palm.

“Why would you give me this?” I asked her, shaking my head in disbelief.

“She whispered her answer, “God told me.”  I believe He did because He understood her heart and knew she would put kindness into motion. 

I never again viewed her as harsh; I only saw a soul filled with generosity and empathy.

As Martin Luther King so eloquently said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” 

He understood kindness was at the root of human decency, honor, and Godliness.  We should never ignore its value nor its immense power.

Leaving Age on the Curb

Before Christmas, 2018, a group of girlfriends headed to New York City to see the bright lights, the holiday decorations, and hopefully catch a snowflake or two.  Our spirits were high because our friend’s niece managed the production of a little play on Broadway called “Hamilton,” and we possessed priceless tickets.   When we stood on stage and mingled with the cast of the famed musical, we were beyond excited.

 We drooled as we gazed into the city’s elaborate store windows, waved our way through throngs of people, and relished each moment. It was the “girls” trip right out of a movie.  We never stopped whirling in the Big Apple until a group of young 20-something youngsters poured a bucket of sand in our boots.

We were about to step off a curb and cross the street toward a park when one young man hurriedly ran around us, cutting us off.  “Hey,” one of his buddies yelled, “Watch out for the old ladies!” 

Did he mean us?

Michele looked toward me, “Did he mean us?”  It pained me to tell her the truth, but since there were no other females of any age near us, I nodded to the affirmative.   Michele turned pale, and the rest of us suddenly felt the need of a boy scout to help us cross the street.   

In all the hustle and bustle of loving the city’s vibrancy, we forgot we were not those teenage girls starring in the movie and remembered we were all within a few years of reaching whatever age it is when youth is left way back yonder.

I love living in my own mind.  I never consider myself old until I try to apply makeup and need a magnifying mirror to do so.  Those lighted mirrors are evil! They also amplify those other travesties growing across your face that resembles a map with railroad crossings and warning signs.

It is funny how we view aging as if it is something worthwhile to notice.  So, perhaps we should not put so much effort into seeing it.  My dad always said, “The worst part of growing older is watching others who leave before they reach an older age.” He was right about that because it sure is tough saying goodbye.  For the ones who remain here longer, we should be celebrating each breath we take.

Keep looking for new adventures

Shoot, I began writing at age 68: a new career, a new adventure, new friends, new dreams, and new deadlines.  I am the new Grandma Moses, except I write instead of paint. And, of course, I am not famous.  But, shoot, I might be!  You just never know what is around the corner if you never give up trying and keep your spectacles on so you won’t hit a wall!

The world takes aging way too seriously, especially women.  We try to stop it, alter its looks, worry over it, and try to become who we once were in that old school photograph.  The truth is, we are basically the same person as we were in school.  The only thing that has changed is the photograph and, perhaps, our added wisdom.

“There is a fountain of youth. It is in your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life, and the lives of people you love.  When you learn to tap this source, you truly have defeated age.”  Sophia Loren

Words from a beautiful woman to those trying to turn back the clock when it is not time that ages us; it is our spirit. 

Live every moment

Our spirits have all suffered this past year, no matter what age we are. It is not our government or a vaccine that will pull us out of our battered souls, but up to each person to utilize every moment.

Staring at that mirror, or wishing for yesterday, or aimlessly worrying over tomorrow will age you faster than laying in the sun slathered in baby oil.  There is so much more to life than fretting over something you cannot control no matter how much money you spend trying.  Instead, take charge of making the world a kinder, less selfish place, creating warmth, bridging gaps, causing someone to smile, and suddenly age will be put in its place…… forgotten.

Take care of the body you have so that you can enjoy living in it.  Your life is not over until they call your name from way up yonder.  Did the good Lord tell you to sit down or stop? No.  So, keep vibrantly moving and pour sand into the boots of those who try stepping in front of you. 

Live boldly, benevolently, and with God every hour of each day until you fly away.  

“Walk a Mile in His Shoes…”

Recently, I was delightfully honored to be asked to speak at a civic club meeting in the spring.  After my response, “Of course!”, I began to ponder the topic of my address.   

After conferring with trusted friends, it will be “Life Lessons.” I have not begun the process of writing my speech, but as I was settling on a subject, an old photograph of my mother fell out of an album I was dusting.

Her dark brown eyes seemed to be searching my face as I studied hers.  Elizabeth Walker was quite stunning and dignified with a quiet disposition.  She spoke softly, always choosing her words carefully.   I never heard her yell or demean another human being in her entire life.

 Between Mom and her mother, I recall the first of many life lessons they both lived by, which was, “Always walk a mile in another’s shoes before judging anyone.” 

The boy with dirty shoes

In the third grade, a small, shy boy sat in the back of our classroom.  He was always dirty, his clothes ragged, and often, his odor permeated the room.  Kids mocked him, shunned him, and I, too, found it difficult to tolerate the stench.  However, I recall hearing my mother’s words before joining the others’ taunts, “walk a mile in his shoes.”

His shoes were dusty brown leather with laces that did not match, and socks turned gray with age.  His blond hair curled around his smudged somber face.  Yet, when I put on his shoes in my eight-year-old mind, my heart hurt, and as I held my nose, I decided to be a friend with the boy who had no friends. 

“Mama, I have to pinch my nose, but I’m trying to walk in his stinky old shoes!” I proudly declared.  A wry smile accompanied her response, “Well, that’s good because God will not need to hold his nose when He is around you.”

At the time, I never understood why The Almighty would have to hold his nose when I took a bath every day, but as the years passed, it became abundantly clear.  Stench and dirt may not be produced only from the earth but born within our souls.

Feeling another’s pain

Compassion is the number one lesson we all must be taught before we acquire understanding.  We may have never experienced hunger, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of those waiting in line for food, we begin to feel the pain of starvation. 

Unless we have endured discrimination,  been bullied or mocked, lived in poverty, wracked with pain, hopelessness, or loss, do we really comprehend how any of it feels?  No, we do not.  God will begin to hold his nose because of our filth if we do not put on the clean clothes of understanding and empathy. 

The most intelligent and satisfied people I have met were those who were educated in insight and love.  They never owned the shiniest cars or the biggest houses, but they had no need for them.  Their worth was rooted in the value of the lessons taught by those who understood the art of living. Those brilliant folks who knew this earthly life is made richer only by humility, sharing, kindness, and easing others’ burdens.

Everyone needs a flower

My Grandmother, aka Grandpa, gave away more things than I believe she ever kept.  Whether it was her canned green beans, pies, or quilts, they found their way to those who wanted or required them more than she did.  She overcooked, over cared, over loved, and over-enjoyed her life.

“Grandpa, what are you going to do with all those white gladiolas in the garden?”  Every summer,  the same flowers climbed toward heaven in row after row.

“Honey, they go to the church on Sunday and then to the nursing home after that.  Everybody always needs a flower!”

Everyone should require a heart like Grandpa’s.  Her life was abundantly full because she gave it away one flower, one pie, and in doses of kindness all the days of her life.  She continually walked a mile in another’s shoes and felt every pebble under each sole.

I also found a photograph of my third-grade class in the old album. Not every student is in this snapshot, but I am in the first row with Sally, Mary Margaret, and Wanda.  I recognize most of them, along with the boy in the back with his sweet face smiling at the camera.  His pale eyes search mine as I look back to the year when we were eight.

It was the year I walked a mile in his shoes and was blessed by the lasting lesson it taught me.