Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where are you, Abi?

His eyes were hazed and unfocused.  Clearly, mental illness, drug addiction, or alcoholism had him in its grips. My "job" at the soup kitchen that day was to go around with pitchers and refill drinks. Each time I passed him, he waved me over.  "Come here," he said in a thick African accent, smiling broadly. Each time, he quietly said something. He wanted more spaghetti. I have pretty eyes, a nice smile. He wanted a hug. I hesitated briefly. He was none too clean. I asked his name.  Abi (aa-BEE).

Later, he got up to leave and came back to our drink station. He put his arm around me and said to someone, I don't remember who, that I was now his sister. He walked out into the world where he lived, on the streets. I think of him often: how he came here, why he was on the streets, did he have family? Of all the people I encountered that day, his openness, his insistence on interacting with me burned him in my memory.

One other client struck me hard. A young girl sat quietly eating her lunch.  At her side, was a stroller holding, I'm guessing, her three month old brother. Her five year old sister sat across from her, her backpack still strapped on. Where were their parents? Who leave a three month old with a girl looking to be no more than eleven years old? Who sends children to eat a soup kitchen filled with (mostly) homeless men? I wanted to take them home. What happens to that baby when the two older ones started school this fall?

As I poured, I made sure to look directly at the lunch goers and smile. All were polite, thankful, grateful for a smile and direct look.

"Where'd you get that swab?" I was asked.  What? What is a swab? Familiar with swag but not swab. He touched his head, "Swab. Cap." I was wearing a white ball cap that was a Junior PGA Golf hat, taken from William. I'd have given it to him but I had to keep my hair covered.

One man went around asking all the workers for a rag. He wanted only some clean, dry cloth to clean himself. Imagine: no wash cloth to wipe your face. Something so very basic we take for granted. Just those couple of hours really have dug at me. At night, I look up at the stars and the night sky. Winter is coming. Where will they all go? How will they stay warm? Yes, I know the woman with the scarred face doesn't really have allergies (as she told the kids) but is a meth user. Yes, I know a good number made bad choices and that some, like in the general public, aren't good people. Nowhere have I read that we are called to serve the "worthy" only. Mostly, I saw people that wanted someone to really see them and smile.

My "brother" is out there somewhere. He needs a blanket for the winter. William and I are going to try to collect enough blankets to give each person served there, up to 500 people, a blanket for Christmas. It should be a good Christmas!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Up Close and Personal

Did you ever wonder why people get crankier (okay, why I am getting crankier) as we age?  Why is there a perpetual frown on our faces and downward draw one the mouth?  Why do we have two creases  right at the top of our noses? It's because we CAN'T SEE! We're all squinting at every label to make sure we read the right dose on all the medications and vitamins we need to keep the engine running.

What possible evolutionary reason would God have to make us lose our up-close eyesight as we age? It seems only to disadvantage.  Then it came to I can't see the wrinkles in the mirror!   Yes, that's it!  Without my glasses, I look just as good as I did decades ago.  Stray hair on the chin?  Isn't there.  Wrinkled eyes? Smooth up close! From a distance, I do okay but up close....

There is nothing more aggravating than not being able to read without finding where I put my glasses. If I don't put in contacts for myopia, I can read without them but then I'm touchy because I can't see facial expressions and far away. If I put in contacts, I can't read up close. My eyes are messed up enough I can't use the new bifocal ones. I guess "it could be worse".

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

It Could Be Worse

In online forums, parents of children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes sometimes bristle at comments they've received to the effect of "It could be worse.  He/she could have (fill in the blank - usually with the word cancer)".  Most parents of children with diabetes intellectually agree with that statement.  In fact, if you read more in those online forums, you will come across posts from parents that write about encountering someone with a difficult diagnosis and that it gave them pause. But with raw emotions and grief at diagnosis, many rant at being told, "It could be worse".

Why that reaction?  It's the truth.  It could always be worse.  There are children with multiple diseases.  My sister, for example, is a specialist pediatric nurse for children with cystic fibrosis. Some of those children have multiple diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes. Additionally, their life expectancy is much shortened.  But, and here's the crux of it:  Just because another person has greater pain or a worse condition does not make the pain in front of you mean less or that you can't give support.

But, we, as a culture, don't practice enough learning the right things to say or how to listen. Most people faced with a chronic disease just wants someone to acknowledge the pain and difficulty. That's all. They don't want to hear about your great aunt that lost both her legs (to Type 2 which is a different disease altogether), about your cousin's friend's boyfriend that died from Type 1, about your pet that has it. They want you to hear them, see them. Understand. 

A common thread is, "You won't understand life with T1D is until you live it". I recently spent a week with that sister and she said she didn't know what I have to do, how hard it is until she saw it. She lived with it. And do you know? That made me feel so validated that she gets it. Nothing cheers a person up more than, "it could be worse!" Gee, thanks, what's next as if this isn't enough? I so appreciate your reminder because I couldn't have thought of that myself. 

If I could take away T1D from our lives, I would. I would, in fact, accept it as my own disease and spare my son. Since that isn't possible, I do have to look for any silver linings. It is making us better people. I probably have been guilty of saying the wrong things at times and not listening enough. If you experienced this, I apologize - and am doing better at that, I think. 

Who the bleep decided we would no longer double space after a period when typing? Do you know how difficult it is to break that habit? Two spaces messes up the formatting on Blogger.


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