Often, I am overwhelmed by the generosity, both in spirit and deed, of my friends. The gestures may be large, they may be small, they may be tangible or they may be intangible. The important thing is that, in those moments I find myself most alone, I am buoyed by the knowledge that I am loved. The gifts of love have a shelf-life of their own.
So far, I have not found them to expire.
I have the fairly uniqued ability to predict the cost of a trip to the market to an amount within one dollar. It is uncanny. As the cashier starts to ring out my groceries, I whisper under my breath, “$219.” The cashier will intone, “That will be $219.89 with your coupons.” Tada!!” I did it again. I mention this kind of arcane talent because of its parallel to the running tally of the kindnesses bestowed upon me by others.
I would like to share just a few of the ways people have touched my life with their generosity.
My husband has, over the span of thirty-five years, given me his love. He has been present through the daily challenges and the most difficult moments in my life. And when it becomes too much, he has recruited help from others to support me.
One Christmas, my husband and I decided to forego the expense of a Christmas tree. We were both in college, money was tight, and we were heading home for a few days anyway. Our shock was real when we came back to our apartment on December 27th. What did we find? A six-foot pine tree aglow with lights, decorated with hundreds of ornaments! Our friends, Ernie and Frank, had a key to our place. Little did we know that they were of the opinion that no home should be treeless at Christmas. They had three in their apartment. So, our little elves used the five days of our absence to prepare a surprise of seasonal splendor.
Once, when my daughter was sick, a friend offered his plane to fly her to Johns Hopkins. Another time, when I was undergoing major surgery, another friend who himself had undergone multiple surgeries, insisted on upgrading my hospital room to the Shapiro Pavilion. The Shapiro Pavilion provides patients with private nursing in an hotel-like setting. It was a large scale gesture typical of a large-hearted man.
I have hundreds of small kindnesses over my adult lifetime; books delivered, meals served, bedside visits, magazines shared, a smile, a touch, a phone call, a note, a healing playlist.
I have had friends take time out of their lives to escort me to doctors’ appointments, drive me to physical therapy, take vacation to play nurse to my patient. Phone calls to offer help in preparing meals, help shopping, help with my chores. I have had a friend open her home to me during a period of recuperation from surgery. She nourished my body and soul with nutritious meals and positive attitude. My cousin sends me goodwill packages from time to time. Another friend calls me daily whenever she deems that I need it.
My friend’s husband has earmarked the library in his 14-bedroom Vineyard house as my home away from home. Then there is my friend who has made me “goddess boxes” for twenty years. When I first had children, she worried that I was forgetting that I was a goddess, not just what I called a “milk-dud.” With three children under five years old, I felt like I was nursing, feeding or cleaning children 24 hours/day. It was she who would not allow me to succumb. She has sent me a box of 20 or so wrapped gifts every year. Three or four might be for the children, the rest, for me. I would take months to draw out the pleasure of opening her gifts. I never expect the goddess boxes, there is no schedule. They just arrive. One arrived just yesterday!
Like my uncanny ability to predict the grocery total, I have an another super power. It may be wrong to come out and admit this, but it is an extension of my abilities as a grocery bill savant. I have a sixth sense about how far I lag behind in giving back to the world the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. That having been said, I will continue to try to give back the multitudinous gifts that I have received, but the magnitude of them far exceeds my insubstantial efforts to balance my account.