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Thankful Thursday: I Am But A Dustpan

I haven't written in a while because I don't want to talk about my aching feet and how too many people have told me it's my fault because I wear high heels but they don't know that shoes are the only thing that always fit (until your bunion takes over) and I don't want to be the kind of person who chooses sensible over stylish.

So I'm sorry, I don't want to bring you down or talk about the things I can't stop thinking about: the hard work and low pay of the (mostly) women who feed, wipe, bathe, dress and care for people so late in their lives and so ill that there are few people left that can care for them. 

I can't stop thinking about the craggy chasm between these (mostly) young women scraping by and the (mostly) old men at the wheel of our lives, making laws and revoking essentials, leaving dignity like a broken down car at the edge of the cliff. I don't want to talk about justice and compassion, those Boy Scout words that now seem as antiquated as landlines and paper maps.

There are calls for our greater selves to surface, to act. Am I obligated to resist, resist, resist

Empathy is a verb. But so is resignation. 

I don't want to bother you with the way my body is leaden with these thoughts and how I've turned inward and slow, how I've read three self-help books in one week and feel none the better.

Everything is a project, and I've run out of gas, will, wine. 

My neighbor, a kind older man who keeps a meticulous lawn, comes looking for me. He hasn't seen me lately, he says. "Are you okay?" 

And just like that I want to tell you that big sweeps are for grand rooms, and I am but a dustpan able to clean a small space. I am cared for and cared about. I love and am loved, and doesn't that erase, or ease, or relax for just a minute this fist I am shaking at the world? 

At the nursing home one of my favorite Bettys (a popular name among the geriatric generation) asks me again and again, "Where am I supposed to be?" 

"Right here," I say, reaching for her hand. "You're right where you're supposed to be."

Her face softens, fear subsides. "Oh good," she sighs. 

We sit together in the quiet.

"You're a pretty girl," she says. 

I'm not a girl. I have bunions and jowls and I know it's not beauty she sees but a small pause of kindness, and I want to do everything I can to live up to her words. 

This evening as the sun slips and the heat softens, I read a poem of just two lines. I can do that. Read, read, write. One line, a start. Let's not save the world, or even ourselves. Right now, in this warm glow, let's just be here, right where we belong. 



It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things & more. Our joy contracts and expands in relation to our gratitude. Big or small, puny or profound, what are you thankful for today? 


* With gratitude to Rebecca Lindenberg, who wrote the poem pictured at top. It appears in The Logan Notebooks. 


Reader Comments (4)

I came here via Lisa/Privilege blog. I was so touched by your observations, especially the "pretty girl" story. While visiting my mother in the Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home, a very attractive, yet relatively young (probably late 50's) lady would always smile at me and say the same thing each time I was there: You're so pretty!" This when I was pulling apart my mother's home of 65+ years and packing up everything to go to charity or siblings ... there was nothing pretty in my tired, stressed face or slightly dirty work clothes. I've always been afraid that I, too, will have dementia, but have the hope that no matter if or when that happens, I'll be able to recognize the kindness and humanity of those around me. Thank you for reminding me of this!

July 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlin

I really like the idea of empathy as a verb. It's easy to forget how hard that can be, and how much work it really takes to think about other people and try to understand what they're struggling with. Thanks for the reminder :)

So nice to "meet" you here. Thank you for reading and responding.

I've gained so much working in the nursing home (aka: skilled care facility), most notably perspective. And gratitude; the smallest gesture on my part — a cheer helloy, holding a hand, sharing a laugh about nothing at all — seems magnified, and this makes me feel both very sad and very happy. I'm realizing that it takes so little to do so much.

Hope to "see" you here again. :)

July 5, 2017 | Registered CommenterDrew

Kim -
Yes! Empathy, love, (and "read") are my favoite verbs — and so much easier than those other sweaty verbs: run, hike, race.

I'm really enjoying the book suggestions on your website. Keep 'em coming!

Thanks for stopping by.

July 5, 2017 | Registered CommenterDrew

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