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Monday, June 1, 2009

Cookies and Comfort

Though the proverbial carpet flew out from under me when I first lost my job, now life reminds me of when my grandmother used to hook her own rugs. The metal frame is perched on my knees; and slowly and methodically, I am pulling the wool through the canvas backing, twisting the hook and creating a whole new pattern.

This thought was triggered, as with so many things in the last few months, in an unexpected way. Over the last several Mondays, I’ve spent the mornings volunteering at the senior “Coffee CafĂ©” organized by the “Friends” of the elders in my town. These days, people know me by name, and not as the stranger who appeared six or so weeks back. For today’s offering, rather than baking a quick bread or a coffee cake, I made my aunt’s ginger snaps, which thanks to her recipe, come out crisp, spicy and delicious. After setting up and greeting the first group of seniors, I grabbed my cell phone and trotted down the hill to the quiet of my car to make a previously scheduled networking call.

As I sat in my car taking notes and quizzing a busy business owner, awe blossomed at the simple generosity of people. Up above me at the function hall, seven or eight people were spending their Monday cooking, pouring coffee and washing dishes for our seniors. And me, well, I was speaking to a talented professional; a referral from a friend of a friend if you will. This woman took time to offer me, a complete stranger, wise counsel and actionable ideas related to parlaying my writing into employment. Though my fingers remain crossed, the reward is not simply the potential that something concrete will come of that phone call. Painted into the larger picture is one more example I have experienced in the last few months of a selflessness that exists in the world that, prior to losing my job, I think I lost sight of for a while.

Smiling softly, I returning to the polished floor of the function hall and cleared coffee cups and pastry plates until another volunteer informed me that there was someone who wanted to meet me. Grabbing my arm, she led me to a table and introduced me to Catherine, a petite, 93-year-old woman whose eyes filled as she thanked me for “her favorite” ginger cookies. While sneaking back to the kitchen to package up several more for her, one of the many seismic shifts that have occurred inside me over the last several months reverberated. Once again it dawned that the world didn’t end when I lost my job, and head’s up, there isn’t a pay check large enough to take the place of the squeeze I received when I handed off those additional cookies.

Back in the day, if you will, in order to balance full-time work and parenting roles, I drew away from extra commitments, including friendships and volunteer activities. Prior to February, I’m not sure I could imagine how thankful I could be for a stranger’s kindness, or the friends that now call me for spontaneous walks, or the warmth of a hug from someone like Catherine. Now though, that full-time working, unaware of how stressed she was, inwardly focused recruitment manager is a part of an old design. The new design I’m trying to weave includes my appreciation for the type of generosity I experienced on the other end of the phone today, and gratitude that my current circumstances allow me the time to give of myself too.

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