Irony - All my life I have thought that the most annoying thing about the small town I grew up in was that everyone knows everything about everybody. Then I moved to San Diego where I knew no one and started longing to walk into a Walmart or a restaurant and for someone to look at me with a smile and say, “oh hi Ciara!”. That’s when I realized, what a gift it is to be KNOWN.
It all kind of started when I realized that one of the encounters I missed most in my last job was helping the elderly patients. I just love old people. It was a weird thing to realize honestly. I had always joked that my goal in life was to be “that cute old couple” with bob, scuffing around in our walkers, matching sweat suits, and Yeezy’s (we better have a pair by then). But I hadn’t really acknowledged that I just really loved old people. Like a lot. That’s when I KNEW. And I think some of you might understand this feeling too, of KNOWING what your’e supposed to do even though it’s way out of your comfort zone, or maybe not the “cool” thing to do, or (my worst fear) no one else is going to do it with you. Crap. I KNEW I was supposed to seek out an opportunity to hang out with the people group I had just realized I adored. Which should’ve made me really excited, but it made me miserable. And so I did what any normal, codependent person does when she knows that she’s supposed to seek out an opportunity that makes total sense for her to do when she is working a barely part time job. I told no one for a solid 2 months. Sat on it. Stewed on it. Whenever I passed a retirement home I thought, “maybe I could do it and maybe it would be really good.” and then I pushed that thought away in fear and held my breath until I couldn’t see the home any more.
Maybe I subconsciously thought if I ignored this "knowing" long enough it would just go away. I guess it probably would have eventually. But the reality that I couldn’t shake it made me start whispering about it to 3-ish people that loved me a lot. They were kind of bewildered but were like, “yah! do it!”. Bleh.
Then I put it off for as long as possible once we actually moved to San Diego and ended up somehow crying on my living room floor because I had called all 12 people that I loved in Oregon (kind of low numbers) and none of them had answered my call. I was SO LONELY. A kind of loneliness that was numbing and making me feel crazy all at the same time. That's when I realized the irony that God had called a lonely person to lonely people.
So I turned to 'ole faithful: Google, and figured out where the nearest retirement home is, just across the street…typical.
At that point in being in San Diego I had one friend, so imagine my delight in coming to a place where I made almost a dozen instantly. Who yes, I may have to reintroduce myself to every week because they have forgotten who I am, but who are all very excited to see me, are convinced I am the most beautiful person in the whole world, and genuinely want me around. I feel like Miss America there and I walk around waving and smiling to people like I’m on the corvette every week. If some of them weren't border line diabetic I might even consider tossing candy.
We play BINGO, sing songs, stretch, play cards, and get a little competitive at this really awesome game consisting of pool noodles and a balloon. We laugh at each other a lot. The irony of the situation is, in hanging out with people who are 90+ I’m being given life. Hanging out with them twice a week has made me feel less lonely and I'm walking into a building where people are looking up at me with a smile and saying, “oh hi Ciara!", just like I had longed for. I am known.
The place I ended up volunteering at is an assisted living facility, which turns out is a lot different then a retirement home. It means some can’t see very well, or hear very well, or walk, or eat by themselves, most of them can barely use their hands, some can barely communicate, everything is going to shit really. Most of them can’t remember a whole lot of anything and I occasionally get invites to homes they still think they live at in other parts of San Diego to meet dogs that I wonder what happened to. And it’s really hard. Some have hope, others don’t.
I’m not gonna lie, it’s rare that I don’t cry on the way home and hanging out with them has made me have more questions for God than less…but even with all the pain and the sadness and this overwhelming reality that everyone I love is going to eventually die, that eventually my own body is gonna start shutting down for business…I can’t leave them. There’s too much good for me to stop hanging out with them because it’s hard. There is too much light in their eyes when they see me for me to stop showing up. There’s too much red lipstick to get on my cheek from kisses. So many of these people have been forgotten by their family, by society, … I refuse to forget them. I refuse to not have time for them.
So this is first, a forewarning that I’m going to be sharing some of stories with you of my friends. Because they are hilarious and beautiful and I think you will just love my friends as much as me.
Second this is encouragement. Encouragement to do what you KNOW you are supposed to do. Stop writing yourself off because you are convinced you are inadequate or have nothing to give. Stop making excuses. Stop holding back because you’re afraid.