I got a “tawkin” to yesterday by a woman sitting and waiting to give blood. Here in my newly adopted home of Brentwood Tennessee, I discovered there is no central location where one can donate blood. I called local hospitals, which don’t have a blood bank anymore.
called the local Red Cross and they informed me that if I would arrive
at the Cool Springs Galleria (a local mall three blocks away from our
townhome,) that I could go to the rented area where the Red Cross draws
blood from donors. It made sense.
In these days of slashed price sales merchandising, it is a “knock down, drag out” atmosphere when stores are down to their last Richard Simmons workout video or whatever the new fad is that retailers are hawking.
When a young man came out to the hallway in the mall to tell his mother that there were 10 people waiting for the limited supply of 5 particular toys, his mother told him to “put on a helmet and some pads and get back in there!” the young man disappeared into the sea of humanity and was never seen again. This is where blood is greatly needed…in the shopping centers.
When I arrived, I was handed some paperwork to fill out. I took my seat and began looking it over. A woman sitting next to me was doing the same thing. She was quite elderly maybe in her late 80’s, and a bit gaunt. I didn’t think it was a good idea for her to be donating blood, but; of course, I only play a doctor on television so I kept quiet.
As I scanned the forms and filled in the information, the elderly woman looked up and saw me filling out my information and decided my penmanship was atrocious. She was not pleased and just began speaking. She said,
“Sir, would you please look at me?”
I looked up, thinking she needed me to take her forms up to the reception area. She looked directly in my eyes and said,
“When you begin forming a letter on paper sir, you should be sure each letter resembles something from the English alphabet.”
I sat blinking, looking at her thinking she was making a joke, but; no, she was quite serious. She continued.
“The letters of the alphabet are our greatest gift, they enable us to be a free people, and express our thoughts, convey great ideas and write our music, prose and poetry.”
I sat enamored with this woman. It was easy to see she had been a teacher by vocation, but more importantly, she was a teacher by gifting. It was in the fabric of her being. When she spoke, her eyes lifted upward, her head and chin were raised and she spoke as a true elder of our society. She was not being harsh. I was inspired aside from the fact that she had just said, cave painters knew more than I did about penmanship.
The harshness came when she then narrowed her eyelids and said, “Your handwriting is an assault on humanity!” I looked down at my partially filled out forms. I HAD been in a hurry, and I had to admit, it was not my best offering. I looked back up at her and she smiled a kind smile. She said,
“Throw those away and go get new forms, let me show you.”
Aside from never having had an individual make an editorial statement about my penmanship, as a lifelong lover of letters, I thought she was exaggerating about the poor formation of my letters on the written page. Nevertheless, remembering that no one is above improvement and, that my parents had always told me to respect my elders, I obeyed, throwing my forms into the trash and going back over to my seat.
She asked me to show her how I held my pen. I complied, and she smiled. “Good, your teachers weren’t the problem…that means it is you!” I grinned and asked, “What do you mean?” She again squared up to me looking me in the eye and said, “If the root of a tree determines whether the tree will stand tall or lean, then how one holds their pen determines whether or not their handwriting will be legible or not!”
I thought to myself, “Surely there is a hidden camera around here and this woman is an actor.” I became wary, but in all honesty, I really LIKED this lady. What she was doing was an act of humility. She was taking the chance that elders in bygone years took for granted; that her student would be respectful and listen. She had her man.
I said, “Yes ma’am please continue.” There was another guy around my age sitting there taking all of this in and while he clipped his fingernails, he laughed a little and said, “Heh, heh, that’s right…let her teach ya how we do it!” She rolled her eyes and realized how what she was doing was being perceived, she sat back in her chair and said, “I’m sorry, perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything.”
It isn’t everyday that someone lays down their life for me. Not currently being a member of a local church, I seldom have many people speak into my life anymore as they did in years past. That’s my fault. The sting of her earnest interest in my handwriting felt…. GOOD.
I realized at that moment that denying our pride and allowing someone to “re-teach” us was a kindness that is unknown these days. Here was a stranger, offering her gifting to a stranger and courageously believing it was going to be received graciously. Although it was embarrassing and stung, I felt that water was being poured into my soul. She was loving me, giving me maybe the only Christmas gift she could give me.
I snapped my head around and looked at Goober trimming his nails and said in as thick of a sarcastic tone that I could muster,
“I can certainly tell by your awesome grooming skills that you are the chosen one to teach us all how to dress for success!” ‘Answer a fool according to his folly” I thought to myself.
He flipped me off, stood up and went on his way. I then turned to my mentor and said, “Please continue!” partially begging her. A grateful smile spread across her face and she said incredulously,
“Really?!” I replied, “Certainly, I’m hooked now!”
The nurse called her name, but she said, “let someone else go ahead of me please.” She did that 6 times in the hour we sat in the main hallway of the Galleria Mall. There was a thrill in her voice as she spoke to me, showing me classic exercises for practicing my penmanship. I felt like Hoke in “Driving Miss Daisy.”
It was a lot of fun and we laughed a lot when I would make a mistake. Little by little my hand remembered how well I used to write. Discipleship is done in this way…
At one point, she placed her hand over mine while I was practicing making a perfect “O” and; for just a very brief second, I remembered my mother had done the same thing. I miss my mom. My hand began to shake and even though I tried to restrain tears, they rolled down my face. I told her I was sorry, but that she so reminded me of how my mother and teachers taught me. She beamed.
She smiled and said, “I taught my son in this same way” and without a tear, and with no self-pity, she continued, “I lost him when he was 37 to blood cancer.” She finished by saying, “I donate blood in his honor”.
Well, by now I was a mess. People were passing by, tears were flowing down my face and the form I had been practicing my penmanship on was tear stained. She was crying too. I told her I was so sorry for her loss and for my behavior at that moment. I said to her,
“I just know, that the roots of your son’s tree were deep and strong. How fortunate he was to have you in his life.”
I could barely get the words out. Here I was, in my construction clothes, with dirty fingernails and hands. The nurse kept calling my name, but I just looked at her and said I would have to re-schedule. My new mentor placed the pen down, took my face in her hands and kissed my cheek.
“Many men your age have forgotten how to cry” she said,
looking away and out at the crowds shopping. “To me, we owe each other
as human beings the courtesy of vulnerability.”
Here was a Godly woman, mentoring me, loving me, and bequeathing to a stranger perhaps something she wished she could have given to her son.
We sat there for a few minutes and I reached over and held her hand. I asked her name and to please let me know how to stay in contact. Then,very carefully, in the best penmanship I could use, I wrote my name, email, phone number, shoe size, and favorite meal… Anything I could write to make sure she could find me again. She declined to give me her information but told me her name was Vera.
“I would prefer not to if that is alright with you.” I nodded in agreement but was sad that I may not get to see her again.
At this point she stood up and walked to the receptionist and waved goodbye to me as she went in to give blood. I thought about waiting for her, but I felt that it was more respectful to give her some privacy and not hover. Before she went in to donate blood, she looked at the note I had handed her and smiled. “Lovely penmanship darling.” She said, then walked into her appointment.
At that moment, I realized once again, the lengths that God will go to show us how much he loves us. I went to give blood and came away with a renewed soul.
It was December 5th but Christmas came early for me this year. God bless you Vera… you exemplify the scripture in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”. I’ve had my angelic visit for 2018.