I just consulted my Dictionary of the Saints and there is no Patron Saint of Gratitude listed. Maybe she or he is going incognito, but there is definitely a presence out there because any time I start having one of my self-indulgent, poor-me moments, I am busted by the Patron Saint of Gratitude. I think I’ll call her St. Tude. This happens about once every 1.5 years, like the day I was on my way to the therapist in 2015, and on Valentine’s Day 2014.
Take tonight for instance. I was in a little funk after work, feeling like I hadn’t done a good enough job writing a commercial today. I came home feeling sorry for myself and started thinking about all the things that are wrong with my life, comparing myself with anyone doing better. I was really on a roll, but decided I should take the dog out for a quick walk then go to the gym and work off some of my whine.
I wasn’t even a block down the street when I saw an older woman struggling to get a walker out of her trunk. I stopped and asked her if I could help her. She said, “No, I’m fine, but maybe you can help my daughter.” She said she was getting the walker for her daughter who’d just gotten out of the hospital after a two week stay.
I opened the car door and saw her daughter looking exhausted. She had fine, flaxen hair, pale, creamy skin and looked like Sissy Spacek. She was dressed in light blue sweat pants and sweat shirt and wore white, sequin-covered slippers you slide your foot into.
Her name is Cindy and I found out she’s a year younger than I am. She could barely move. Her clothing had that hospital smell I know well after years of dealing with my father’s illnesses. I ran to put Topper back in the house and ran back, realizing how lucky I am to be able to run effortlessly.
I tried to help Cindy out of the car, but she was exhausted and could hardly shuffle one foot after the other. A young man came along who tried to help, I think his name was George. We got Cindy standing up, but were afraid to try and carry her down the stairs.
George had to leave and I called the paramedics. They took over, and as we chatted, I learned they’re at the house at least once a week. I left Cindy and her mom, Theresa with them, but left my phone number just in case they ever need help.
I can’t imagine how they do it every day. Theresa is 85, bent over, has bad knees, and can barely move up and down the stairs herself, but she was a beacon of positivity. She told me we only hear about bad things in the world, but that since she’s been dealing with Cindy’s illness she’s met so many nice people who’ve come to their aid.
I could’t have felt worse over being so friggin’ self-absorbed. It’s as if the universe said, “OK Fran, you think you have it tough? Ha! Wanna see what it’s like when things get really tough? I’ll show you.
And it did.