Over the last few weeks I’ve learned that several of my friends have been going through pretty difficult times. One friend’s husband has been facing very serious health challenges while another friend lost his mother. When I heard this news, my first reaction was to think something along the lines of “why do bad things happen to good people?” My next response was to bake each of them a pie.
In his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, Harold S. Kushner writes, ““Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people?…The response would be…to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all…no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.”
How do you respond when bad things happen to your friends? Though sometimes I think it is hard to know precisely what to do, I have found that often doing something as simple as showing up matters a great deal. On my desk I have pasted the quote, “You can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to show up” by George L. Bell. Something about those words really resonates with me… I guess it because it’s imperative to me that the people I care about know that I am the kind of person that they can depend upon…. the kind of person that shows up. And if I just happen to show up with a pie, well, I think that will work out just fine.
“A true friend never gets in your way, unless you happen to be going down.” Arnold H. Glasow
About five years ago, Bill Gabriel was my daughter Alexandra’s journalism teacher. It was at that time that Bill helped a group of students revive the Rogue News at Ashland High. It was an incredible experience for my daughter and Bill was instrumental in making it an invaluable learning opportunity as well. As I see it, Bill was able to help his students achieve success because he believed in them. And having someone believe in you can make all the difference in the world.
Bill gave my daughter the chance to do something that she wanted to do (write/lead) and he challenged her to do it well. Alexandra was co-editor of the paper that year, and while she had Bill to encourage and support her along the way, she still had to do the work. And work she did. This evening she told me that “Gabe was by far the best teacher that I had at Ashland High. He didn’t treat us as if we were seventeen. He treated us as adults.”
There are many other students that feel the same way. How do I know? Well, one indication is the number of ball caps that Bill has on his wall. They bear the names of the universities that “his kids” (former students) have attended and there are far too many caps on the wall to count.
Today when I delivered a Marionberry pie to Bill he told me that when he “graduates” (read retires) from high school in a few years, he wants to take some time to try his hand at cooking. However, Bill doesn’t want to be a working chef; he just wants to “take some classes” at the Culinary Institute of America near St. Helena, CA. Not exactly what I would call an easy retirement, but hopefully it will be one that is both tasty and enjoyable. Bon Apetit!
This morning I was invited to a brunch put on by my friends Mark and Leslie. There was a wonderful assortment of friends and foods and we settled in for a nice visit. A short time later, our friend Katrina arrived. It had been a while since we’d spoken and so we sat together and chatted for a while.
Katrina told me that she had learned some things recently that had helped her. Then she mentioned spending time with her neighbor Bob earlier today and how much his words had meant to her. I know what she means; it’s really nice when a friend helps you just by being there with you and listening to your story. Sometimes we need someone to point out things to us that are so obvious to everyone else but that we seem unable to see.
Immediately I wanted to make a pie for Bob for sharing his wisdom and compassion with Katrina, who then shared hers with me. I asked her if that would be possible and she thought it was and we made arrangements for me to deliver the pie later in the afternoon. When I arrived at Katrina’s house we discovered that Bob had gone out for a while. She called him (having just been given his cell number!) and told him that there was a surprise waiting at home for him.
Soon Bob came home and we walked to his house with the pie. He asked why I’d made him a pie and I tried to briefly explain my project and mentioned that I was making a pie everyday. “Everyday?” he asked. “Well, today is day 81″ I replied. Bob stopped in his tracks and said, “Did you say 81? Did you know that I am 81 years old?”
No, I did not – but I love that Bob’s age and my pie gift to him had the same number. It’s the little coincidences like that that keep me thinking that this project is divinely inspired – and I am so very glad to be on this journey.
Saturday is a good day for yard sales here in this little town and today I found a sale on Craigslist with the Y.E.S. logo. That can only mean that Claudia is at it again. Claudia is the proprietor of Y.E.S. which stands for Yard and Estate Sales. She has been helping people sell their belongings for a long time and is the quintessential professional. Her task is a fine line to walk and she does it with respect and grace.
An “estate sale” usually means that the person who once owned the items is no longer living. For me, it is necessary to be respectful when walking through the home of a person who has passed on. I feel as if the person’s space is being invaded and you may be forgiven for being there if you maintain a certain decorum. Heaven forbid if you are rude or make fun. Let’s not forget that one day someone may be perusing your “stuff.”
Estate sales are fun in an anthropological way in that they can tell us a lot about the person. Did they like to cook? or read? Were they a film buff or maybe a gardener. We leave all of our belongings behind when we die and they tell a story about us. Look around at the items on your shelves… what do they say about you? Perhaps if you are lucky, someone as nice as Claudia will handle your belongings with the love and care that you would give them.
For Claudia, and her lovely helpers, I brought a warm Marionberry Pie. Thank you for your kindness.