half a smile

Inside the Lane County Fairgrounds convention center, I sat at our pregnancy support center's table on an event day a few weeks ago. People filed past and many stopped to receive baby supplies from me and a volunteer. We were part of the well-organized "Project Homeless Connect." Doing a lot of what we usually do in our office, except that day we could make contact with more clients and with people from other nonprofit groups.

My smile rather pasted on, I handed out diapers and wipes, remembering to ask if folks could use baby food, bottles, or a blanket. Plenty could. Their thankful grins and grateful exclamations pattered around me like soft rain. Would have been nice if my attitude were in sync with theirs.

Though happy to be helping out, I wasn't especially in the mood to work three extra hours. Boy, that sounds whiny, but there you go.

I looked forward to going home, to lounging between my sturdy walls. I failed to imagine guiding a stroller down darkened streets, the chill March evening, a wish for permanence.Once in days gone by, I sat in a dirt patch with a homeless friend. She was enjoying herself, weeding and preparing earth for flowers. She appreciated the roof over her family in a travel trailer.

"In the next life," she told me, "I'll have my own real garden."

During a lull at the table at the fairgrounds someone breezed past, a man in jeans and t-shirt with a stethoscope tucked under one arm. My family's doctor.

"Hello," I called, and he came over to shake my hand and ask how it was going. He had been there all day, giving free exams. "The line doesn't quit," he said. "But I had to run to the bathroom."

I let him go. I ought to have stood and saluted, I suppose.

I thought about him a week or so later, while I rode with Tim to the mechanic to pick up my broken-down-now-repaired car. To pay the bill with credit and hope for funds. But not to worry we'd lose our home or anything.

I thought about our doctor and the choices he made in those earlier years: college, med school, loans, sleeplessness. Finally, the ability to contribute to a line that didn't quit. To people needing warm blankets or their own next-life garden.

I thought maybe you see yourself, at some point, here. I am here. Where life put me. Guess I'll balance somehow between the overwhelm and the release.

Just then Tim and I slowed at the top of the railroad overpass, and a guy pedaled by in his lane. He looked like our doctor, though hair covered most of his face. We were near the mission and he had no helmet or coat. Having reached the apex, he rode hands-free against the breeze. Half a smile glimmered as we passed.


Cherie said…
Cassie recently participated in a Project Homeless Connect here in town, too. I imagine it was the same one. She made omelets for the disadvantaged with her culinary mates from the institute. She came home glowing and newly imprinted with another life perspective. "They were all so nice, Mama. And the little kids, they were so skinny, and they were so happy to have me tell them they could have as much as they wanted. No one was greedy. And the kids and adults were so polite. They said please and thank you and smiled. I'm so happy I helped. I had a blast! But at the same time, it's so sad. I want to do it again."

We live in an amazing community. Thank you for your part in helping, Deanna.
Deanna said…
Thanks, Cherie. I wish I would have had time to wander around at the event and see Cassie. That's great she lent her skills to it, too. Maybe I'll see her there next year.