Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Gift to Myself

Last week, I reposted my story "A Blessed Thing". It was a true story. But what I wrote does not illustrate the full scope of the poverty in which Miss Jimmy lived.

Labor Day weekend we visited the in-laws in SmallSouthernTown and with the story still fresh on my mind, I asked my father-in-law to tell me more about how he met her and how their relationship developed. I was astonished to learn that he had been taking care of her in some form or fashion for nearly forty years.

They met at the grocery store where FIL had his first job as a butcher. She would walk from her home (the same one in which she died) to the store every week to get her meagre supply of groceries. It wasn't long before the frugality of her purchases prompted FIL to realize that she was in dire straits. He began saving cuts of meat, chicken thighs and legs and assorted pork parts for her.

Store policy would not allow anything in the meat case that was over a day old, so anything that was left over the following day was either thrown out or taken home by employees. FIL would bring out the purloined meat and give it to Miss Jimmy, exhorting her to take it lest it be wasted.

After a while, he started squirreling away dented canned goods and expired boxed goods, knowing that they were still perfectly edible. He couldn't stand to see the waste while Miss Jimmy went hungry. Sometimes he purchased sale and clearance items in bulk for her. She wouldn't have accepted them if she knew he had paid for them, so he convinced her that they had been destined for the dumpster.

That went on for many years. FIL grew very fond of Miss Jimmy, and she him.

One day she stopped coming to the store. FIL became terribly worried. He had never known her last name and he didn't know where she lived. But, as in most small towns, there is an internal grapevine for divining those sorts of things. Eventually FIL found out that Miss Jimmy had been stricken with diabetes and was so ill that she could no longer make the long journey on foot to the grocery store.

He grilled the townspeople that came into the store until he encountered someone who could direct him to Miss Jimmy's house. The next day he made his first grocery delivery to her door.

FIL had known that Miss Jimmy was poor, but that was the first time he realized just how poor. Her home was in terrible condition. The porch and the roof sagged with age and rot, the doorframes were warped and the windows were covered over with cardboard where panes had been broken and never replaced. The paint peeled away in chunks, leaving great expanses of gray and weathered wood exposed to the elements.

A lone window at the side of the house sported lace curtains, and a warm glow shone from it. It was the single room in which she was living, unable to afford to heat the rest of the damp and drafty house. Even that one room was piercingly cold. She was using a kerosene heater, but in an effort to conserve the precious fuel, she kept it just barely warm enough to survive. FIL added kerosene to his weekly list of supplies for Miss Jimmy and told her to turn it up until it was warm as toast in her shabby little room.

As the years went by, FIL and MIL provided Miss Jimmy with a multitude of other items such as an electric blankets and warm clothing. But it was tricky business taking care of someone with such a fierce sense of pride and independance. They had to contrive all kinds of stories to convince Miss Jimmy that she was not the recipient of a charitable act, but in fact, doing them a favor by taking the items off of their hands.

Miss Jimmy died in 1995.

With the holiday season, FIL had been terribly, terribly busy, (in addition to working as a butcher, he had a Wild Game Processing Business out of his home) and had been unable to get over to see Miss Jimmy for a couple weeks. She died alone, her teeth frozen in a glass beside her bed.

It ate FIL alive.

Which brings me to the point of my post. It is absolutely shameful that people in our country are living in such poverty. That they are alone. Cold. Scared.

I mentioned a while back that I was going to volunteer for the homeless, but it has become a logistical nightmare for reasons too numerous to go into. Suffice it to say that I have been monumentally disheartened by that.

However, I have come accross a new opportunity through the Community Outreach program at the Elementary school, (I know, I said I was done with PTA, but this is worth putting up with all the petty crap) where I can bring food to people just like Miss Jimmy. But it's more than just food. It's a friendly face on a lonely day. It's a human voice, a warm touch. Someone to listen to their stories. Someone to smooth a blanket over their lap or brew a cup of tea. Someone to fuss and care.

If you have some time...even as little as an hour every week...consider volunteering for a program like this in your area. There are so many people out there cold and alone and there doesn't need to be.

Miss Jimmy touched me in a way that I can scarcely do justice with words. If doing this leads me to others like her, then it will be I who receives the greatest gift.

It's a gift we can all give ourselves.

19 Comments:

  • At 7:29 AM, Blogger Avalon said…

    Wonderful suggestion. While I don't visit with people in their homes, I do visit seniors in our local nursing home, psychiatrically disturbed kids in an inpatient setting, and starting in 9 weeks ( after my formal training is completed), at Hospice with the terminally ill. I do all of this voluntarily with my dogs as we are certified Pet Therapy teams. We get so much more from these visits than we give, and the time requirements are minimal.

     
  • At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Pinks & Blues Girls said…

    Your in-laws have such giving hearts and generous spirits. It is terribly sad that people live in those conditions. You told this story beautifully.

    Jane, Pinks & Blues Girls

     
  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger slouching mom said…

    Oh. BA. This wounded me. Poor Miss Jimmy. But what a good man your FIL is. I wish he could think about all he did for her, as opposed to what he didn't, but it doesn't sound as if that's going to happen.

    Thank you for putting a spotlight on this, for caring, for having the great big heart you do.

     
  • At 12:34 PM, Blogger Amy York said…

    Your FIL and MIL sound like fantastic people ~ I'm glad Miss Jimmy made their aquaintance!
    Thanks for the tip ~ we've been looking for a way to help volunteer now that my boys are old enough to participate...
    And I'm proud of you for doing more than just griping about the current sad state of affairs as most of us do... and doing something about it! You are a wonderful example!

     
  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger thailandchani said…

    Each one reach one. That's where it starts. :)


    Peace,

    ~Chani
    http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

     
  • At 1:14 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    Oh that sweet, dear soul. That just cracks my heart. What wonderful people your in laws are and I am proud of what you are doing.

     
  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chicky said…

    Good on you!

    (But the death of Miss Jimmy, horrible)

    I've been trying to find an organization to volunteer with that will allow me to bring Chicky along. This might be just the thing.

     
  • At 2:01 PM, Blogger painted maypole said…

    What a great post. I imagine your gift of service to others is the best gift Miss Jimmy and your FIL could receive.

     
  • At 2:21 PM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite said…

    Good for you! Thanks for sharing and inspiring others to do the same.

     
  • At 3:01 PM, Blogger Terri said…

    This made me cry. You are absolutely right. It is shameful that people have to live this way. One of my goals as a parent is to teach my children the importance of reaching out to people like Miss Jimmy. Your post served as a reminder to me to check out volunteer opportunities in our area that my kids can be involved with also.

    Thank you for the poignant reminder.

     
  • At 4:02 PM, Blogger Natalie said…

    I'm glad that you were able to find a program that would work for you logistically. You have been wanting to volunteer for so long and I know you will make a difference.

     
  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger margalit said…

    If we all did just one act of giving on a daily or weekly basis, we could change the world. Thank goodness there are people like your FIL that understand this. What a wonderful man.

     
  • At 8:40 AM, Blogger jen said…

    i wish everyone saw things like you do, sister. i wonder how the world would look then.

     
  • At 8:59 AM, Blogger Mary Alice said…

    One gift to the world that you yourself render, is the gift of writing...through this you are able to stop people and make them think....this was a powerful story. Your father and mother in law are wonderful people...and I can only hope that this story was told at the family table and the kids were able to listen and learn from it as well.

     
  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    I know next year at this time I will finally be in a financial position to actually be of use.

    We will also most likely be in a very rural area rife with the kind of poverty you write of.

    Miss Jimmy will be with me in spirit, where ever we end up. Reminding me...

     
  • At 9:50 PM, Blogger Jenn said…

    It is overwhelming; the thought that in this country, this world where so many have so much, there are so many with so little, with less than so little.

    Giving back, in any form, is the only way to change things.

    I hope that this volunteer opportunity gives you a chance to put all that good in your heart into the hands and souls of others.

     
  • At 12:54 PM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said…

    I can also give you the direct hook up for volunteer work here in town because that is my line of work you know!!

     
  • At 7:34 PM, Blogger laundrylessons said…

    What a lovely legacy your FIL has started. When I was growing up we always visited people and took them things. AT the time I never fully understood what my parents were doing. Now I get it. I have a wonderful Miss Jimmy in my life. She doesn't understand all she gives to me. Thanks for the great story.

     
  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger mrinz said…

    What lovely people your in laws are. They are wonderful role models for the next generations.

    Christians with their 'sleeves rolled up'!

     

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