Lady With a Sandwich
By JIM NICHOLS
Our bodies are not the only things that need exercise. To try to keep my body functioning as well as possible as I age, I do physical activities that might maintain flexibility and strength. It is not comforting to keep reading how much muscle mass a body loses every ten years.
My mind and my soul need exercise too. For me, trying to maintain societal diversity is one technique. I borrowed that term from somewhere but am trying to draw a parallel with ecosystem diversity. That describes how, within a given geographic area such as a forest or pond, there exist multiple types of life. These various plants, animals, and microbes each have their own individual lives, but they also live in community and, in many cases, the relationship is critical, sometimes a matter of life and death. In a biological ecosystem there is extreme interdependence caused by the diversity among the organisms. Societal diversity identifies a similar interdependence we have on each other; sometimes this is obvious as with a parent and child. Most other cases, however, are more subtle and simply involve being aware of our human contacts and admiring the unique individuals God has made and put in our paths. I have been thinking about a few of my favorites lately.
Ms. A lived in a modest house and received weekly meals I delivered. Her door was frequently open leaving only the screen door between her living room and her porch. Ms. A offered a blessing to me weekly as, when I got to her door, she was usually back in the house singing some church song. Frankly, I was hesitant to knock because I knew that she would stop singing and come to the door. Ms. A was a part of my societal diversity.
Ms. B’s children gave her a new television set. The new set was operated with a remote-control device that totally confused Ms. B. Reader, admit it—remotes can be quite confusing even for those of us accustomed to them. For Ms. B, this was nearly a lost cause. She reported that her children had schooled her in how to turn the television on and off and change the channels, but it clearly did not stick in her mind. Every week when I visited her house, she had me enter and either turn the TV on or off or to a different channel. To my amazement, she said one time she had called the fire department and they had come to help her with the TV. When I asked her how that visit went, she said, “They were very nice, but they said this was the only time they would do this; do not call again.” She was charming.
Mr. C also had a television set, one that he had on FOX NEWS during every visit—loudly. In his easy chair and chewing on a cigar, he liked me. I had delivered to both him and his wife and, after she died, continued to see him. He wanted to have conversation and I struggled to overlook and unhear Donald Trump. I resisted the serious temptation to inquire about his devotion to such an immoral liar but was touched by his genuine appreciation for my time; he taught me some things I needed to learn.
Ms. D did not answer the door when I knocked repeatedly. Following protocol, I called her telephone and she said she was in the storm shelter in the back yard and could not get out. Hoping the back yard lacked dogs and snakes, I went there and found her (with the door open) down steep steps that she could not negotiate. It was a problem I could help with but reminded me of the diversity of needs and consequences of people’s decisions.
Sometimes I am running late on the delivery route. Ms. E liked to banter with me. Her passive-aggressive move was to come to the door eating a sandwich; I got the point.
I have been told that farmers used to adjust the yoke of their animals to avoid chafing as they grew. Perhaps that is why Jesus’ words about “my yoke is easy” make sense. The societal diversity we encounter is part of our yoke adjustment.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain
I enjoyed this piece very much. I used to deliver Meals on Wheels and had some of those wonderful encounters you shared. That societal diversity is a humbling experience that enriches our lives.