Looked After

I lingered too long with my coffee yesterday morning. I planned an Independence Day run in my favorite park but didn’t start as early as intended. Orange cones already lined the street into the park to guide the throngs of firework watchers showing up to stake their claim to the best spots. I maneuvered my car through some of the cones to park in my usual space.

My run started better than expected and I felt good despite the heat. There were more people out and about at the park. Biking, walking, running, or preparing for their picnics. I ran through neighborhoods, around the school, then back to the park.

My run still felt okay but I was hot. I ran on the edge of a parking lot when I nodded to an older gentlemen driving a golf cart. He stopped the cart and motioned to me. I noticed he wore a cap with the park name on it. I wondered if he was an employee.

I walked to the cart and the man asked how long I’d been running. I answered him, then he asked how far I had to go. I told him, “three more miles to reach my goal.”

I must have looked overheated and thirsty. He handed me an ice cold water bottle from his cooler and told me to take it with me. Then he told me to take it slow. I opened the water bottle and drank fast. He looked concerned. I thanked him and turned to walk away. He said, “wait I’m not finished yet.”

He spread a small towel in his lap, filled the middle of it with handfuls of ice, and pulled the corners of the towel up around the ice. He put the “ice bag” behind his neck, on top of his head, under his chin, on his wrists and told me to do the same to cool off. I stood there with the bag behind my neck as he told me to be careful. He warned me of the heat again and I had a fleeting sense of familiarity.

He mentioned how he planned to celebrate later with his family and beamed when he talked about his grand children.

I thanked him again, reached to shake his hand, and asked his name. His eyes brightened, he shook my hand, told me his name, then asked mine.

Before he drove away, he said, “Marie, glad to know you.”

It wasn’t until this morning I discerned the familiarity.

The man on the golf cart reminded me of my father. Not his appearance, but the things he said and how he said them. His makeshift ice bag and demonstration of its most effective use. His going above and beyond in his care about such a small thing as me being too hot.

It was Dad who saw to our wounds when we were stung by yellow jackets or scraped our knees. He did the mean stuff. He dabbed our cuts with iodine or squeezed our splinters to the surface to pull them out with tweezers, and told us to stop whining about it.

As he aged, his care became more tender. More advice and prayers than tending wounds. Moving things or fixing broken ones. Letting us borrow what was his and always helping when he saw a need. Sometimes he helped before I knew I needed help.

Dad looked after us.

I finished my run. I took the man’s advice and slowed down, and it may be the reason I finished. I think it was another one of those times I needed help and didn’t know it.

 

Photo by Arleen wiese on Unsplash

 

Volunteer

Volunteering is a really good thing and it goes along with my Live Like It Matters Challenge so…………..

My challenge to you is to volunteer. Regularly.

Go to your city’s animal shelter and see if you can help walk the dogs. And maybe you can even do something with the cats if you want to.

Ask the principal of any local school, especially those in less affluent areas, and just see all the projects you can help with. I’ve cleaned out flower beds, painted over graffiti, cleaned and painted bathrooms, fixed broken bathroom stall doors, picked up trash after several football games (football fans are some snack loving, trash making people), and organized and served a free breakfast for a teacher in-service training.

Most hospitals or nursing homes have a volunteer program. Your local library, too. Check them out and see if you can find something to do.

Even if the nursing home doesn’t have a volunteer “program” check with the administrators to see if you can visit the lonely people there. If you have kids, take them with you because lonely old people love young people. I’m fortunate enough to have two daughters that absolutely love old people. Can you sing or play an instrument? Perform for the patients while they’re eating their meals in the dining hall. Can’t carry a tune? Then definitely don’t sing but the ladies like to have their nails painted. And all of them like to play games. Or sit and talk with them. That’s their favorite thing anyway.

Help serve a meal at the local food kitchen. Stuff envelopes at your local campaign office. Clear out some overgrown trails with a team of forest lovers. Organize a trash pick up at your workplace and use the lunch hour to clear the street of garbage.

There are thousands of ways to volunteer.

I am fortunate enough to be part of a local church that does all of these things and more. We seek out opportunities to serve our city and the surrounding communities and we’ve made and will continue to make a significant impact where we live.

It doesn’t matter where or how…..just do something. Volunteer.

Because it matters. Because you matter and he matters and she matters.

Live like it matters.

Help

We’ve been at this “Live Like it Matters Challenge” for several weeks now. I hope you’re more aware of those around you and realize how the smallest choices we make toward others can make the biggest impact.

My wish is that the challenges I issue become the way we relate and interact with those around us on a daily basis. Are you saying hello to strangers? Thanking those you appreciate? Have you stopped the negativity?  Keep practicing. It takes time to make new habits.

Today, my challenge is more broad than the others. The challenge is to be helpful. Wherever you are, to whoever needs help.

Take the grocery cart back to the cart corral for someone who just finished unloading their groceries. Help a mom with the baby stroller. Hold the door open for the person behind you.

There are a million different ways to help. Just look around. Is your neighbor’s trash container still at the road three days after the trash has been picked up? Put it back where it goes for him. Is your co-worker still struggling to finish a project for the boss? Ask if you can do anything for her.

In the rural area where I live, help may look like wrangling a loosed cow. In the city, you may share a taxi or even give your taxi up for someone that’s in more of hurry than you are. Help can be as simple as being extra kind to the teenager who’s in-training at the register. The customers ahead of you have huffed at her slow pace but she’s doing her best. Your patience and kindness toward her can change the attitude of the customers behind you.

My girls helped their grandparents put up Christmas decorations.
My girls helped their grandparents put up Christmas decorations.

Offer to pick up the dry cleaning for your dad. Sit by someone who’s sitting alone. Pick up the trash on the floor that everyone else has walked over.

This week, look for ways you can help and then do it. The simple act of helping can make a profound difference for someone.

Live like it matters.

Remember to do good and help each other. Gifts like this please God.  Hebrews 13:16  NLV

 

In response to the Daily Post’s Prompt Help.

Keep Saying Hello

Last week I challenged you to say hello to 5 strangers. The point of the challenge is for us to become more aware of those around us. I hope it helped you do just that and I encourage you to continue with it.  hello

I had a couple of interesting encounters but mostly I say “hey” and smile and the other person does the same. Some people don’t say anything but smile as they walk past me. I’ve noticed if I’m waiting in line and say hello a conversation usually takes place.

I met Edna at my local library. She’s an older woman with white hair. She told me she can’t type very well.

I also met Mr.Grocery Guy. Although I didn’t get his name, I found out that he’s working on his degree in finance and he turned down a great intern opportunity to marry the love of his life. He and his love are now divorced after 2 years of marriage. I told him I was sorry and he told me it was okay. He is back on track with his finance career goals. I learned all of this while he was helping me get my groceries to my car. I told him good luck with his endeavors and he said a hearty “thank you”.

The most interesting conversation was with a young mother in the parking lot at the library. I noticed her talking on her cellphone very loudly and I smiled at her. When I came out of the library she stopped me as she was driving out of the parking lot. She apologized for her shouting. She explained that she doesn’t always do that. Then she shared more about her situation. Her husband is out of work and instead of going with her to look for a job like he was supposed to, he went with his friends to make a drug run. I put my hand on hers and asked her name, then her husband’s name. I told her I was sorry about what she’s going through and she drove off.

I’m unsure of why she felt like she needed to tell me all of that.

Except this: she wants someone to know. She wants to feel less alone in her fight. Her heart is breaking for her children and she needs to know someone cares. She needs hope.

Do these encounters matter? I think so. I know they matter to me. They keep me connected to others and their hurts. While I’m worrying what to fix for dinner the young mother from the library parking lot is worrying for the safety of her children. That shakes me up. It forces me to get out of my comfortable middle class world and get out there and do something…..anything that can help give people hope.

There’s lots of ways to help. Serving meals to the homeless, giving to your local church or non-profit that help those in need, volunteering at your local schools, tutoring kids, mentoring younger people, visiting nursing home residents are all ways to make a difference. Or you could buy a house in a deprived neighborhood, fix it up, and live there. I have friends who are doing this. They’re living right where the help is needed, building relationships and making a difference in that neighborhood.

It’s called living on purpose. It’s called living like it matters.

And it can start with hello.

I will issue another challenge soon.  Until then, keep saying hello.