With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
My youngest brother is fifteen, almost sixteen, years younger than I. When he was small, I spooned pablum into his little mouth, held up his hands to help him toddle, laughed when he made baby eyes at me. Last week he texted, "Going to the store. Do you need anything?" And he brought me bags of groceries, stood halfway down the stairs while I stayed above on my porch, and we chatted about his children.
Fred Rogers famously said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." I need the helpers now and at many other times. This morning I had my first walk at 6:30 when it was stil barely light. The garbage trucks rumbled and crashed through my complex, and I thought, This is another group of unsung helpers. I am grateful they are still working. The bins were overflowing yesterday. The birds helped me too–crazy with songs of joy at the dawn light.
When Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture, the student expected her to say something like, "Fishhooks" or "Clay pots." But she said the first indication of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur that had broken and healed. Animals that break a leg die because they can't get to water or food or defend themselves, but in humans, a broken femur "that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts," Mead said.
An excerpt from "Hum," by Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems: Volume Two because we are perhaps more aware now than ever that to be alive is a blessing:
. … The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
That life is a blessing. …