Friday, January 30, 2015

Saying "Yes."

Towards the end of my drinking, "No," was my standard response to invitations, opportunities, and life itself. Locked into my own dark and tormented world of spiritual decay, I was incapable of participating in the joy, the magic, the beauty around me. The outer vestiges of my life still looked good. The beds were made. The kids had clean clothes. Groceries got delivered (thanks, blessedly, to PeaPod). Luxury cars lined the driveway. We still took fancy vacations. A ceramic plaque hung above the hearth of our sprawling Colonial, "A mother's love is the heart of the home." Regrettably, this mother's heart had shut down years before. I went through enough motions to make you think everything was fine, but inside I was an empty shellServe the world? I'd throw money at a cause, but give of myself, my time, my energy? Never.

New England experienced a snowstorm this week, and while it never quite reached the epic proportions predicted, the Northeaster did drop at least a foot of snow and higher drifts. Scrolling through Facebook the day before the storm, I came upon a link for an organization, Serve Rhode Island. The headline read, "Hundreds of volunteers needed to shovel." Curious, I clicked on it, and decided to add my name to the list of volunteers willing to help the community's elderly and health-challenged residents. I graciously submitted to a background check, and by the end of the day, I received an email notifying me that I had been selected. I received my marching orders and drove enthusiastically out to Coventry not knowing what to expect. I discovered a disabled, arthritic woman, a cancer survivor, a woman perhaps younger than myself. When she came to the door to greet me, she looked past me and asked, "Do you have help?" I laughed out loud and pointed to my shovel. Half-way into the job, an entrepreneurial plow driver and his assistant stopped and offered to "finish the job for twenty dollars." When I explained that I was just a volunteer, doing it for free, they both looked at me quizzically, smiled, and went on their way.

My neighbor came to the door a half-dozen times, expressing concern for me, my safety, my heart, offering me water. When I was all finished, and pretty proud of the wide swath I had cleared for her to get her car out,  I thanked her. I explained that by asking for help, she gave me and countless other volunteers the chance to be useful, to provide a service. We exchanged phone numbers like good neighbors sometimes do.

I won't lie. The snow was light at first, and my movements were swift, but as I got closer to the curb where the plows had mounded several feet of wet, slushy snow, the work got tougher. By the time I got back to my car to await my next assignment, I was flushed, but grateful that at sixty years old, I am strong in body, mind, and spirit, and that I have learned to give an enthusiastic, "Yes," a hearty thumbs-up, to life.

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