I’m having knee replacement surgery tomorrow. I know I’m lucky that I can afford the health insurance that makes this possible, lucky that I’m in excellent health otherwise, lucky that my recovery will likely be smooth and complete, lucky that Dick will care for me through this. All week, messages have come from friends and family wishing me well. My knitting group, fantastic Duluth women, delivered a week’s worth of homemade food for us. I’m grateful for all of this. And yet, I haven’t shaken the feeling that it isn’t fair to interrupt my life for surgery so that I can simply enjoy walking again. There’s going to be a lot of sitting around before I can move the way I want to.
And then a couple of things happened that knocked me into a better perspective.
My dad, appreciative of the medical care my mom received in her final year, and mindful of the news from Aleppo, decided to donate to Doctors Without Borders instead of buying gifts for children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. He knows it’s a way to step outside the fortune of our family ties to acknowledge that families very much like ours have unbearably sad burdens that they somehow bear, every day. I’m glad he’s doing this, especially as we turn the corner into whatever the new year will look like, here in the U.S. and around the world.
Then, my Book Club in the Twin Cities decided not to continue the traditional book exchange where we all bring a wrapped book, open them one by one, and try to guess who gave which book. This usually becomes the larger part of our reading list for the coming year. But there are other ways to make a reading list. Instead, we are donating items requested by one of our members for her homeless clients. Jane, a former ballet dancer, went back to school a decade ago to get her R.N. degree. Now, she’s a public health nurse in St. Paul, who begins her days at 4:30 a.m. wearing a headlamp to visit homeless people wherever they are camped.
When we asked what we should buy, Jane answered by email:
The people on the streets are there for a variety of reasons; poor mental health is always a factor and most of the people I have met have fallen through the cracks, unable to obtain housing because they are not able to follow through a long list of requirements that would enable them to do so. And, aside from other street homeless, they have few friends or family.
I do see women, but mostly men and except for 3 rather emaciated men, the majority are large — tall and big. Big hands and big feet.
Anything you give, I will send you a story in return about who I brought that particular gift to and how they reacted to it. I would imagine that not many of my people I see will be receiving wrapped gifts. Whatever it is, please add a tag for me with what the item is and size so I can deliver what is most needed to a particular person.
What we need: I’ll start big to small: pup tents; sleeping bags, sleeping matts for comfort; backpacks; battery operated radios with batteries; flashlights with batteries; warm clothing: gloves (warm gloves and socks (wool); long underwear (tall and large or extra large); warm hats (large sizes) and gift cards to restaurants downtown so they can get out of the cold early in the morning or late at night and go get something to eat and something warm to drink and so they can be inside out of the cold. Some ideas are Brueggers, Micky’s Diner and Cosetta’s. Not Holiday (which is close to where lots of people camp) because they sell cigarettes. If you have second-hand jackets and second-hand boots that you are discarding, please think of me.
While I was digesting this message, Jane sent another message: