I met a woman this morning who greeted me with a loving smile in her hand-crocheted afghan-looking poncho, worn polyester pants and bandaged bare feet. My car just read -7 and the radio announced wind chills 20 below that just before approaching her door.
“Are you bare foot?” I asked as she let me in her cluttered kitchen. Cluttered isn’t the appropriate term, but it’s a polite term dismissing the boxes and bags and piles overtaking the house like an exotic invasive weed. She scooted some photos, junk mail, and undeterminables over on the table so we could both have room to fill out paperwork while she finished her breakfast.
“Oh I need to show you what has been happening to me. It’s edema and cellulitis and an infection… it drains all the time so I’ve become quite the expert in wrapping and re-wrapping this thing. Medicare doesn’t want to pay for it anymore.” She has diabetes.
But the oh’s and whoah’s turned into, “I’m going to write a book one day. I mean it. I’m going to write a book for all you young women out there on ‘What Not To Do In Life.’ And the first thing I’m going to write is to Never Stay with An Alcoholic Husband. Leave and do not ever come back. That was the biggest mistake of my life.”
She made a squishy limp fist and pounded it to her chest. “And you tell any woman who struggles under a bad man, that she stand her ground. I’m going to write about that too. Stand Your Ground. I mean it.”
And then after a big sigh and shaking her head as if this is the temporary remedy for dealing with such a malady, this incurable disease she feels stuck with to the end of her days, she planted her sweet puffy grey eyes on my now large wide brown eyes and said, “And then I’ll write that You Have To Be Kind.”
She explained that all her life, that was all she knew, to be a kind person, even in tough times when it seems impossible, but it made the biggest impact on her life. By being kind to others, and truly kind with all her heart, people are now paying her back. “I have people all over this town who will do anything for me (but they won’t do it for him).” She pointed to her living room where her husband slept to the TV. Another therapeutic sigh and shrug, with her strength refocussing on her smile.
“You are a good kind person, Laura. I knew it the minute I met you. And I notice these things because good kind people are hard to find. I learned that once you find a truly kind person you take notice and you thank them. So, Thank You, Laura. Never change. The world needs people like you, more than you know yet.”
Despite the wind chill, abrasive crystalline snow blowing across the sidewalks, and Jack Frost clawing at one’s nose, this woman’s words warmed me up inside like she planted my own personal sun inside my chest. And yet, the weather, with it’s brilliant sun trying to mask the harshness of the winter, emphasized what I told a good friend later on in the day.
Bittersweet is a flavor tasted often in life.
It’s up to us to learn how to appreciate it.
That night after work, as if in her honor, I made a warm, puffy, light, cheese soufflé, and I thanked my husband for being a kind, good-hearted partner in my life.