We need to create more Grateful Moments!

The bus was late. I was stressed. We were going to be late for the first gymnastics class. I parked the car across from the bus stop and waited. After they tumbled off, I hustled the boys over to the car and yelled, “Jump in! Get buckled!” As the bus was trying to make its busu-turn and I was clearly blocking its progress, I moved the car forward to the other side of the street. Super Tall Guy yelled out, “Mr. Ornery’s not in the car” (well, he used the middle kid’s real name, to be truthful). I stopped immediately, opened the car door and looked back about 20 feet behind me. My vision of Mr. Ornery in his bright orange shirt was blocked by an unknown car who had stopped right in front of him and the driver had jumped out to videotape or photograph my moment of stupidity.

And that’s what it was. A moment. Maybe 20 seconds. A moment when a hurried mother made a mistake. But thanks to the stranger, a police officer showed up at my door at 9:00 o’clock that night to interrupt bed-time routine and inform me of my stupidity. Fortunately, it was one of those awkward “warnings” about a “chaotic bus pick up?” and I agreed with him that yes, I was wrong. It was a lapse of judgement. But no one was hurt and I had not gone anywhere. My boys were safe and they were not traumatized. We had talked about the situation. All was fine.

Except my heart. My heart was sad that in this world, my first thought was – great! Some stranger is videotaping me and I’ll either “go viral” on social media or have a police citation.

My question is – why didn’t the stranger instead think to help. Maybe instead of blocking my view of my son, she might have taken my son’s hand and walked him to my car. We all would have said thank you and moved on with the day. It could have been a “grateful” moment.

Just five days before this, on the second day of school, a little 7-year-old got off the school bus with my boys. There was no parent waiting for him. I walked him to his house and we knocked on the door. No answer. Knocked on windows. Nothing. I called the management office of the community and they called the parents and tracked them down. I waited with this little boy for 10 minutes until his parents arrived. They thought he had gotten on the bus to day care rather than the bus home. It was a mistake.  A moment. I did not call and report the parents to the police. I helped.

Oh how I wish we could all be more helpful.

This week an elderly patient sat in my office. She wasn’t sure she wanted to return in two weeks to get her blood pressure rechecked because transportation was too difficult for her. And she didn’t have any one around to help her. She looked at me with eyes of sadness. “People tend to disappear once you get older or have a cane,” she lamented. “Nobody wants to help anyone anymore. Nobody cares anymore in this world. Everyone is just worried about their own self.”

A generalization yes, but also a reminder to me.

Let’s be more kind.

Let’s be more helpful.

Let’s think about what others might be going through and what we might do to help.

Let’s be a good neighbor and a loving friend.

Let’s create more grateful moments.

Love matters.

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Bits of Trauma

It was a couple of small pops followed by some strange noises that I couldn’t decide if they were animal or human. It was 9:30 at night and I was walking the little dog a few doors down from our home in the “townhome” side of our rental community. The next morning, my neighbor asked if I heard the gunfire as I greeted him while taking the dog out again. My fears were confirmed when a friend from the township police department called to let me know there had been gunfire, broken window, and argument, but no arrests. “Probably drug related,” he suggested.

Gunshots in the apartment side of the community. Gunshots fired in the building adjacent to the playground where my children swing and slide and jump their bikes off any possible knoll. Gunshots that could be a stray bullet piercing one of my precious sons.

I immediately put in a call to the property management office for the boss to call me and sent an email. He called back later the following afternoon. He had no concern and certainly had no plan to address the issue. “I can’t control who people invite over,” he responded. “No, we won’t extend the fence line; that would be expensive.” “The police do patrol,” he answered – “never seen them patrol,” I argued – “well, it’s at random times.” (Hmmm, nope, no one in the neighborhood has ever seen them patrol either.) Every suggestion I made, he had no interest in. “I’ll pass your concerns to my supervisor,” he concluded. I informed him that I was “tremendously disappointed in your clear lack of concern for the safety of the people who live here and for the children.” And then I left a message for the regional manager; and I’m still waiting a return call.

You see, last Friday we got a “letter” in our mailboxes saying that of all the nerve, there have been reports of kids riding their bikes on these dead-end streets and that from now on, all children must be supervised at all times when playing outside. I didn’t see on that letter that there have been any reports of people driving faster than the posted 10mph while on the same streets as the kids, but I pretty happily give these drivers the universal “slow down” hand signals when they come cruising along. I’m just wondering why management in their wisdom doesn’t want to put out a letter to help the entire community feel safer about the recent gunfire “incident.”

So this weekend, I took it upon myself to personally say hello to my neighbors, ask if they heard about the “incident” and let them know that “management” doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. I am therefore asking each of them to be more vigilant and keep an eye out for each other. I am asking them to call the police immediately if they notice anything troubling. I am asking them to speak up if they have a concern.

My boys have heard these conversations. We’ve talked about it many times. We’ve set new boundaries for where they can play and ride their bikes. We’ve reviewed safety guidelines. They seem to be coping better than I am. For they have the great perspective of a protected child; they can look at the adults around them and feel safe and loved.

Probably what was more “traumatic” to Super Tall Guy this week is that he twisted his ankle jumping on a “Jump Pad” at a local corn maze. He hobbled around for the foot-bootafternoon complaining that he couldn’t have any fun. He crawled around the floor the next morning until his aunt dropped off a pair of crutches. Finally he succumbed to my urging to get it checked and he walked out of there in a boot with a nondisplaced avulsion fracture in the ankle. Yes, he will likely remember this weekend of me downplaying his pain while my head and heart were wrapped around the needs of the community.foot-broken

It takes a village, they always say. We live in a small “village” here. Apparently our “leaders” are much more interested in collecting rent checks than providing safety, but we shall continue on and do what we can to protect each other and support each other. And we as parents certainly are looking out for each other’s kids.

And yet I shall continue to look for a new house….while also making sure that I land in another “village” to wrap around us all.

An Adventure to Kinzua Bridge

I chose the road less traveled by and it made all the difference.

Some weeks, the storms rage and the responsibilities at work and at home coalesce into endless days and sleepless nights. Last week I was simultaneously preparing to give a talk to fifty elementary school kids interested in service and a roomful of primary care providers at their annual conference. In the midst of powerpoint slides, I was aggregating data into dreary Excel sheets of numbers. I felt sorry I wasn’t spending much “quality” time with the boys and yet by Thursday afternoon, I was solo and heading northeast to the middle of the state.

An evening of quiet, an entertaining exchange over breakfast with the bed and breakfast owner, an energizing presentation and I was headed south again. On a whim, I set my GPS course for the Kinzua Bride State Park after flipping through the coffee table book the night before.

The road less traveled by. I do not regret the stop.

In 1882, over the course of 94 days, a bridge 301.5 feet high and 2053 feet long was constructed over the Kinzua Valley. kinzuabridge1Forty workers were paid 2-3 dollars a day as they constructed 20 towers made of iron to support a railroad track which would move the state’s natural goods.

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Just 18 years later, however, the locomotive engines were heavier and the iron tower had to be replaced by steel. Again the feat was accomplished in a short period of about four months but given the high winds in the area and the weight of the engine and cars, the trains were restricted to 5 miles an hour.

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Considered at one time to be the Eighth Wonder of the world, people came from miles around to see this amazing bridge. It was used regularly for commercial purposes until 1959 when alternative routes were used and the land was sold to the state to become a park. Excursion trips were then available; but in 2003 a tornado ripped through the valley and sent almost two-thirds of the structure crashing to the ground. There it remains as a tribute to the ingenuity of man and the power of nature.

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And there I stood at the end of the observation deck, letting the breeze blow over me, basking in the warmth of the sun, and resting in the quiet of the early afternoon. Glancing down, I saw people far below and knew at that moment that it would be just a little bit longer before I returned to my boys.

 

Scampering down the pebbly path as a mountain goat, I thought of how much the boys would enjoy the hike. Rounding a hairpin turn in the path, I slowed down to meet Barb and ponder with her the best way to reach the bottom. We ambled along together, her regaling me with stories of her husband slicing off the tip of his thumb this week with a crossbow and therefore she was descending alone. I shared my newfound knowledge of miscellaneous facts gathered from the coffee table book. We wondered if my sons and her grandchildren actually would want to scamper down and HIKE back up.

Her husband Terry did eventually join her and we enjoyed the start of the return journey together. When they stopped to catch their breaths and waved me along, I agreed to send down the search party if they didn’t return shortly (and they did make it).

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The road less traveled.

It made all the difference to me that day.

An hour of quiet reflection.

An adventure with new “friends.”

A chance to reconnect with nature and see the beauty of the changing seasons.

A new discovery to share with my family one day and a moment of peace.

Sometimes, you have to choose the other road and enjoy the adventure.road-large

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