This past week I flew to my home state of Texas with a friend. I needed to sell my mother’s belongings and I gave myself a rigid deadline. I would have an estate sale, sell my mom’s house and two cars all within a week. I knew the amount of work would be enormous because I had seen how well my mother hoards. The house is neat and organized but there are items stored everywhere. She loves paper clutter and plastic tubs food comes in from the grocery store.
When we arrived things got off to a rocky start. The door that should have been unlocked was locked and all the keys were inside the house. I had to call a locksmith. Once in the house, we thought we could relax but the doorbell rang. It was the Police. Someone thought a burglar paid a locksmith to into my mother’s house.
By this time I had a chance to look around the house and note the overwhelming amount of items that needed to gotten rid of. It’s amazing how we spend our lives collecting things and then spend the end of our lives getting rid of it all.
What happened next reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people. To be more specific, people who grew up poor. One neighbor brought home made meals and iced tea to drink. Two local friends jumped in and helped me sort through things as well as sell items at the estate sale. One of the friends had been up all night at his dying grandmother’s bedside. He joined us for several hours despite the lack of sleep and was an excellent salesman.
The other friend stayed by my side during the entire week, helping me sell, move things and get the house ready for sale. Once we sold all our furniture he and his wife offered us a couch to crash on for our final night. The thing is, I did not have to ask for anyone’s help. Everyone just jumped in and helped where they could.
I had forgotten how well mannered the people of the south are. Everywhere we went, men waited for us and held doors open for us. Even if we were several steps behind, they waited. At each place we went, people greeted us with a friendly hello and a smile. There were lots of yes ma’am’s and yes sir’s thrown around. The kindness offered to us while we were there helped make a tough week bearable.
When I came back home, a friend invited me to her house for a home cooked meal. We talked for hours about her homeland in the Philippines. What struck me was the stories she told were the same as what I had experienced in my home town. Even though living in extreme poverty, the people would do anything for you.
When it comes down to it, I think what makes people who come from poverty special is their humility and generosity. I know I am humbled and grateful for all the kindness shown to me these past two weeks.
Earlier this week I had a chance to catch up with an old friend. The conversation turned to the people in our lives who are not doing too well. My friend’s eyes began to tear up as he told me about how his wife’s cancer flared up again. She is going through another round of chemo, which has been hard on her body. She has lost her hair again as she did the last time she went through chemo. Her hair is a feature she was quite fond of. Now it is falling out in clumps leaving her partially bald with tufts of hair in random places. She wears scarves and headbands to attempt to cover her balding head. My friend got choked up telling me about a recent cruelty his wife endured. She was out in public when an elderly man made a rude comment about the bow on her scarf. The comment hurt her feelings, as she was already terribly self-conscious. My friend kept asking me why someone would do that. I had no answer and no comfort to offer. What would prompt someone to be rude to someone instead of just offering a reassuring word?
Also this past week another friend posted on Facebook that she needed urgent prayers. She added a comment pleading people to please not ask what it was for. It’s unfortunate she had to add that comment to keep people from prying. It reminded me of a time I had surgery on my foot. I wore a walking boot for several weeks while my foot healed. I was surprised at how many strangers asked me what happened to my foot. Not only did I not feel like explaining my injury but also I was astonished at the intrusiveness of a complete stranger.
Why do we think we need to know everything about other people’s lives? Does asking about someone’s injuries fulfill some kind of morbid curiosity?
That brings me to my final frustration. Often people will say, let me know if there is anything I can do for you. When someone is going through a challenging time and you make that offer, you put the burden of getting help back on them. Someone who already has their plate full is not going to ask you to do something for them. Figure out what you would need if you were in the same situation and then just do it. Maybe they need a home cooked meal, their kids may need a ride to soccer practice, maybe they can’t get their lawn mowed. Do that random act of kindness.
I don’t think people want to know what is going on in other people’s lives. It seems asking how are you is just a nicety. If you don’t want to know or to help, then don’t ask.
The day started out like any other summer day. My dogs and I got up; we ate our breakfast and slowly got on with our day. This early summer has been a record breaking series of hot days. The temperatures keep the dogs low in their energy levels. They prefer to stay inside where the house is air-conditioned. We were having a nice peaceful day until about five in the evening.
My pack of five dogs is a group of four senior dogs and one middle-aged dog. My oldest dog is fourteen and my youngest is six. The four oldest dogs are all very close in age. I have watched them go from young energetic dogs to old pained dogs in what seems to have been a very short timespan.
There are many changes associated with advancing age I was aware of and could plan for. The aching joints, the reduced appetite, the slower movements, I was ready for those. What took me by surprise was the onset of noise phobia in two of my calmest and most stoic dogs. My third oldest dog has always had the hardest time with fireworks and thunder. I always have medication on hand for him because he shakes and whimpers inconsolably.
Just this past year, I have gone from one fearful dog to four fearful dogs. I had no idea what the trigger was until I did some research. I found an article here: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2110&aid=616. The article stated older dogs could become overly sensitive to noise. It sited cognitive dysfunction, the inability to get away from the source of the noise and decreased ability to manage stress as contributors to noise phobia.
Unfortunately for my dogs, a hot summer day that falls on the fourth of July means plenty of fireworks can be expected. I held off giving medication for as long as I could. Both TV’s were on and up as loud as I could stand it. It did nothing to drown out the heavy fireworks that seemed to have been lit off right next to our house.
My oldest dog was not phased and never has been. My second oldest dog was a train wreck. Despite medication on board she would get up and pace and a pant. I would have to repeatedly get her to lie down and sleep a bit. My third oldest needed two doses before he slept peacefully in the corner of my closet hidden behind my hanging clothing. My fourth oldest was hovering between peaceful and anxious but he succumbed to the medicine. My youngest got as close to me as possible, facing me and staring at me while I petted him and reassured him.
I know many dog owners find themselves in the same situation every Fourth of July. I pity the large farm animals and wild animals that have no comfort from the noise. I used to like the Fourth of July but it is hard to enjoy the day when your pack is frazzled. Maybe there should be a quiet celebration for dog lovers on the Fifth of July.