Back to work


I am back at work and missing the extravagance of time to read your blog posts and respond in a timely manner to your kind comments on mine. The library is not yet open to the public and I don’t know yet when it will be. (If you didn’t know that’s where I work, at the local library.)  There is just a skeleton crew at work right now and I miss the staff who have yet to return. It’s nice to be able to see regular patrons, if only from the proscribed social distance. We are doing curbside pick up. Patrons order their books, movies, games, etc. online and come to the back door where they have to call in to let us know they are there to pick up their holds. Items are then checked out on their account and put in bags which are then placed on a table outside for them to retrieve. It’s interesting, but also strange being in a library empty of people, except for a few souls. I am grateful though that the director and powers that be are taking a very slow and careful approach to re-opening. There is a lot to consider and several changes are in the works to deal with this new ‘normal’.  Things will never be the same. Still, I am hopeful. I am also a bit nervous. But so far, so good. Life will, no doubt, look very different when all is said and done. Yet, there is much to be grateful for and many blessings to count as we navigate our way through these deep waters. Stay well my friends, and stay safe.

All hail the hard working cleaning staff at every public institution


They are often overlooked or ignored completely, but how very necessary and important their work really is, and now more so than ever. So, this is my shout out to the men and women who clean up after us, who keep germs from spreading every single day of the year. They often go without accolades, and sadly, without honor. Yet without them how widespread would the common cold and influenza become? All work is honorable and good. ALL work.

I work at our local public library, which is housed in a huge recreational and sports complex. Every day, and actually several times a day, I see them coming in wheeling their carts with cleaning supplies and brooms etc. and always with a friendly smile and a greeting for us at the front desk. They clean EVERYTHING and I am so grateful they do. They are every bit as important as our medical staff; as our first responders; as every person who serve the public in any capacity.

Thank you, Divine One, for our wonderful and too often forgotten cleaning crews. God bless them all.

“They’re stealing our jobs”


I have heard this line more often than I’d be able to count. I am somewhat sensitive to it. I grew up in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our family moved to Ontario and as I grew older often heard that line or one much like it: “Bloody Newfies are stealing our jobs”. At that point in time people from my native province had gained a reputation for being hard workers – something many employers looked for. Later the line would be applied to other people of various nationalities. I know my family weren’t out to “steal” the livelihood of other Canadians. We simply wanted what everyone wants: a livelihood, security, a means to feed our families and put a roof over their heads – to make a living. And so do the new comers to this country. I do not begrudge them any opportunities. Most are hard working. Most are so grateful to be in this country. And most add to the opportunities available by opening small businesses where others can be employed.

I find it disheartening that decades later I still hear that line. Or the ever present, “let them go back where they came from”. I try to ignore it, but it’s hurtful. I cannot help but wonder if the people speaking thus have ever had to worry about their chances in so far as employment is concerned. If they ever had to fear for their safety or freedom.  Why are they so fearful and so hateful in their comments? I am not an economist nor a financial wizard, but I believe in the inherent goodness of all humanity and I think if everyone were to ‘go back where they came from’ we would all be a lot poorer – in more ways than one.

Quality of Life


Angel holding bunny

I write this to honour a young man I once had the privilege of working with. He was confined to a wheelchair and spent his days alternately in his chair or laying in bed. He could not see well as he was partially blind. He also could not speak much and only uttered two words that made sense: “mama” and “No”. Mostly he uttered guttural sounds, but oh my, he could laugh. I remember describing him to friends of ours and the first thing they asked was, “what kind of quality of life is that?” And they felt sorry for him. Yet it was this young man who taught me much about what ‘quality of life’ really means.

No, he couldn’t walk and his limitations were severe and many. He could move his legs and one arm, and he could turn his head to a limited degree. He also had a feeding tube in his stomach through which he was given nourishment – liquid ‘meals’. I had been asked if I would come work with him as his usual care giver was going off on leave. I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I had never done this sort of work before and didn’t think it was a good fit, but his mother encouraged me and, in the end, I agreed to try. It has been a blessing that has had reverberations in my life.

Here is what J. taught me: He taught me there are many ways to communicate without ever speaking a word. He taught me patience. He taught me grace, endurance, forgiveness, and so much more. He taught me what real love looks like.

I would arrive in the early morning and he would be laying awake waiting for me. I would bend over and whisper good morning in his ear. He’d smile. He always smiled.

After the morning routine of bathing, dressing, and breakfast was done I would sit beside his bed and read stories to him. Sometimes I sang songs, he seemed to enjoy that. He also enjoyed games I made up as we exercised his limbs so the muscles would not atrophy. He laughed a lot. It was gratifying to hear him laugh, and when he would turn his head at the sound of my voice and smile his beautiful smile.

He loved it when his little brother, a toddler at the time, was placed on his lap. The little guy was very curious about this big brother and would often hug him and caress his face. J loved that. At other times though, he would slap J or inadvertently hurt him in some way. J would cry, deeply hurt by his little brother’s actions. But he never had the smallest inclination to strike back – he had no desire for revenge. He simply expressed his hurt and pain through tears. J never seemed to get angry – it was just not part of his makeup or personality. Thankfully these occasions were few and far between.

I worked with J for a little over a month, but the time spent with him was overall a joyous experience. He was endlessly patient with my fumbling in the early days and I came to look forward to my time with him. It was a time of great learning, on my part. And it was a time filled with grace, peace, and goodwill. J has many blessings to share with the world, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the benedictions he imparted.

 

 

Rest this Labour Day


“Come to me all who labor and I will give you rest.” Mark 16:17  Today is Labour Day in Canada and also in the U.S.A. It is a day set aside to celebrate the work we each do year in and year out and recognizes humanity’s deep need for rest and relaxation; for renewal, rejuvenation; for time to recharge our mental, physical, and spiritual batteries.

I cannot help but think of all the people who are working today though. All the people who work in the food industry – the servers scurrying to bring us our meals as we lounge in comfort. The retail workers who stock the shelves or stand on tired feet at cash registers. Or the nurses, doctors, and administrative people working in hospitals today.

In Canada today is a stat holiday – which means everyone should be getting the day off. Unfortunately, that is not even possible in today’s world. After all, who would make our meals, or ring up our sales, or bandage our wounds if everybody took the day off.

Still, I hope all people get a day of rest, if not today then a day of their choosing. To rest from our labours is such a wonderful thing. Wherever you live on this great continent, I hope you take time to rest and rejuvenate and to fully enjoy life.

Ruminating on Autumn


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Autumn is just about upon us. The days are growing shorter. As summer draws to a close I feel sad. Sad that I did not make the most of the warm season. Sad, I did not languish longer under the blue skies and hot sun. Isn’t that just life – to take the days for granted as though they are infinite. But like summer itself, life is short. We tend to take it for granted until something terrible happens. Perhaps that is the silver lining and the lesson in tragedies – they make us aware of the fragility of life.

I have been thinking a lot about my brother. He was killed when an impaired driver crashed into his vehicle in November of 2016. Sudden death is always horrible. It rocks your world and turns everything upside down. I know I am far from alone in experiences such as this. What is it about seasonal change that brings out such maudlin thoughts? And have you ever noticed that there are far more deaths in fall and winter than the rest of the year? Strange.

But I don’t want to be a downer. Chris was a very funny guy. I miss him. However, I will cease to ruminate on the sadness his death brought and focus instead on his many gifts. He was also very thoughtful and generous with a sunny nature. I wish there were more people like him.

Yet, we are all unique with precious gifts of self to offer. Whether we are artistic, creative, or just plain kind – we each have a gift to bring. My sister says she has no talent. But she’s wrong. She has a wonderful gift for helping people. She works in the psychiatric wing of a hospital in a fairly large city. She is well suited to her work as she is endlessly patient and forgiving, as well as wise and compassionate.

Whatever work you may do. Wherever you may live. I hope you recognize your talents, and that others do as well. I hope you know you matter and your life does make a difference.  I hope you rock this world with loving kindness and that you know kindness! Until next time – Cheers!

It’s all about support


Many of you who follow this blog know my family is faced with a tremendous challenge in the form of a court trial, which began a week ago. It will be ongoing throughout the month of November. In case you don’t know this trial came about due to the death of my brother. He was killed when an impaired driver crashed into his vehicle as he was headed home from work.

It’s been hard – enough said. But this blog is about the support I have received, including that given by my coworkers. People may not realize how much it means, the gestures and the kind words.

My coworkers have lent a sympathetic ear, have given hugs, and have given me reasons to smile. The opportunity to be silly for a few minutes is very important to me – I need to take a break from the stress and pain, it is healing. Laughter acts like a tonic, easing the agony and reminding me of all that is still good in life. So I just wanted to give a shout out to the team at work who have helped me so much, even when they don’t say a word!

Shout out to Front line workers


I work at the front desk at the public library in my town and I have to say I enjoy my work immensely. I love helping people and like to think my efforts make a real difference in the lives of our patrons. I worked in retail for a good part of my life and have always enjoyed meeting new people and learning a small bit about their lives. There is nothing I find more distasteful than overhearing anybody disrespect people working in the service industry – whether it is a counter person at a fast food joint, a fellow co-worker at the library,  or the secretary in the doctor’s office. I am grateful to say I have witnessed very few such situations.

I honestly have found that the overwhelming majority of people are absolutely awesome. I had cause to reflect on the goodness of people and the sheer joy of working with the public the other day at work when a regular patron I had not seen since before the holidays gave me a hug and wished me a happy new year.  She has such a big, warm, and beautiful smile – it is always a joy to see her and even though I do not know her well I am always appreciative of her open-hearted kindness and friendliness.  I was tired that day and not feeling good. I was just a little under the weather. This woman did more to lighten my spirit and sow a seed of generosity than she will ever know. I treasure all such moments like these. It is a testament to how we can each make another person’s day a little brighter.

Never underestimate the power of a smile or the little gestures that can turn a person’s day around. It is like a small pebble thrown into the water. It has ripple effects we may never know about. Respect and human decency – that’s what it’s all about. So this is a shout out to all people who work on the front lines wherever you may be employed. What you do matters and this is my salute to you. You are awesome!

Never forgotten


I was 12 years old, my friend perhaps a year older; she was a year ahead of me in school. Her name is Gloria Scanlon. I think of her often. She befriended me at a time when I was experiencing culture shock after our family moved to Ontario. I was extremely homesick and missing my old school and friends. She defended me when the bully of the classroom would pick on me. In many ways she was my hero. She died when a drunk driver hit her and her pregnant sister-in-law as they were walking to a store.  I remember her face. I remember her funeral. And every year when the organization against drunk driving, MADD, go into high gear to kick off their red ribbon campaign, I am reminded once again of Gloria.

Today I have more reason than ever to think about the victims of drunk driving. Despite millions poured into a public awareness campaign to combat impaired driving people continue to climb behind the wheel of their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. I don’t get it. Perhaps I never will. On November 19, 2016 my brother was driving home from work, headed north. At the same time a 36-year-old man who had been drinking was driving southbound.  There was a collision. My brother was killed. The other driver is facing charges. And my family is left to grieve. My brother’s children have been left fatherless. Why? Why, after decades of hearing and seeing the message, “don’t drink and drive” do people decide to do just that. Why?

I may never know why. But I do know this: Gloria will never be forgotten. My brother will never be forgotten. I will share their stories. I will work toward finding the answers, not only for my family, not only for Gloria, but for every single person affected by senseless tragedies such as this. They will never, ever, be forgotten.

The Importance of Teachers


“Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” – Joyce Meyer –

I have been blessed with knowing many gifted and caring teachers. Growing up in Newfoundland & Labrador many schools were staffed by women religious, a.k.a. nuns. We called them ‘Sister’ and of the many I knew as a child I remember Sister Euphrasia best. She was a sweet woman who lived her faith through her actions. She was kind and unfailingly patient, and in my opinion epitomized everything a teacher should be. I don’t remember what exactly made her so special but I do remember feeling cared for, respected, safe, and nurtured in her care. She helped me grow on a personal level as well as intellectually. She helped me discover a love of books and learning and encouraged my childish curiosity.

Years later when our family moved to Ontario I switched to public school. I remember how my teacher helped me make the transition to my new school and helped me over the pain and grief of homesickness. Once again I was blessed with a truly talented and kind teacher.  His name was Mr. Guistini and he became my first real crush – fortunately if he noticed he never made much of it. I think the thing I most appreciate is the way he handled bullying in the classroom and helped each child feel special and unique; how he emphasized an individual’s strengths and moved heaven and earth to help any academic weaknesses.

Yes, my life was truly blessed by extraordinary and gifted teachers. Sadly this was not the case for two of my siblings. They experienced cruelty, mockery, and psychological torture at the hands of certain teachers. I wish they had known teachers like mine – people who enjoyed their work and looked upon it as more of a ‘mission’ rather than a job. It is easy to see how people who enjoy this work can make a huge difference in the lives of their charges.  I wish every teacher could understand what an impact they make on the lives of their students. I wish they could all know how important their work is, and therefore how important they are – and not only to their individual students, but to society as a whole.