Thursday, September 21, 2006

Yea, forsooth! All freaks shall bow before my majesty!

NEWS FLASH: This woman looks nothing like me, even with red hair.

Time for a change of pace, dear readers! This is a rare, freak-free story, a warm and fuzzy anecdote. Last Sunday, after my fun little jewelry-making adventure in Venice, I headed back into Hollywood to volunteer with a homeless assistance organization that I've been involved with for almost three years. The group gives out food every Sunday, and helps motivate the homeless to transition back into society by raising their self-esteem through job training. I wish that I could volunteer more often (I try to do it at least once a month), because I feel that it's one of the most important things that I've ever done with my time. Being able to help people who are truly seeking help, and having the privilege to assist them as they reclaim their lives, gives me a feeling that I can't describe. It certainly makes this often ugly and brutal world suck a little bit less.

When you're a regular volunteer, you start to see the same faces in the food line again and again - and they recognize you too. One of the elderly men that we assist (I'll call him Mr. Flowers) is almost 110 years old, and he's a total sweetheart. No dirty old man syndrome here, dear readers. Mr. Flowers shows up to the food servings every week, always in a suit, hat and sunglasses, happily greeting all the volunteers. It goes without saying that he's a flirt; he laughingly says that the secret to his longevity is "money and beautiful ladies." When he goes through the line, he always gives me a compliment that cracks me up, like "Hey honey! If you ever want to get married, look me up! I love a younger woman!" "Hey beautiful lady, you shine brigter than the sun in the sky today! You know what, I can do 25 pushups, I'm a strong man for you!" (He really can do the pushups. I can't do 25 pushups now, in my 30s). Every once in a while, he'll even sing me a song. His constant cheerfulness helps me keep my priorities in order.

On Sunday, I was in charge of collecting tickets and controlling the flow of people through the line. Before the food serving started, I stood at the front of the line, chatting to the people in the first group, which consisted of the handicapped and elderly. Mr. Flowers sat on a metal folding chair at the front of the line. I asked him how he was doing, what he'd been up to, and lord, wasn't it hot today? - just small talk. Mr. Flowers lives alone, and at 110 years old, most of the people that he's loved in his life are gone. He relishes the opportunity to get out and have a chat.

Mr. Flowers didn't have a song for me that day, but he appreciated the time I'd taken to talk with him a while. "Thank you honey, you're a beautiful woman! You're prettier than Princess Diana!"

I laughed. "Mr. Flowers, that's very high praise, but I think you might need new glasses."

"Don't tell me what I know, honey!" He wagged his finger at me. "I know what I know. God bless you."


Blogger blacksheep said...

I love to sit and visit with the elderly. You can learn so much from them if you stop and take the time to listen. Besides the older that I get, I realize that one of these days I will be that elderly woman, and I hope that someone will take the time to sit and visit with me. What comes around goes around. I think it is just wonderful that you take the time to help serve food. This world would be a lot better place if more people took the time to do what you are doing.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

It's just proof that beauty is an internal thing and I think you must be glowing with it when you interact with him. I lived with my gran for 2 years and cared for her and I never felt so beautiful as when I tucked her in to bed at night and she would reach a wizened hand in the light of her bedside lamp and touch my hair as it fell forward after I had given her a kiss. 'Pure gold...' she always said and even though it never looks like that by day, it always did for those few special minutes...

2:49 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Thanks, ladies. This is why I love volunteering. It's absolutely amazing to me how certain people can thrive despite extremely difficult circumstances. Definitely puts my own priorities into perspective.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How refreshing! Loved this read. Thanks Ginger.


12:16 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Hey, that's why I'm here. Glad you enjoyed it!

6:03 PM  
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