Moments of Nerdy Joy and Caregiving

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Moments of Nerdy Joy and Caregiving

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My flight from Oregon to Tucson included three legs and two layovers that totaled twelve hours from drop-off to pick-up. But I was prepared. I brought reading materials. And an intention to look for opportunity to do a random act of kindness. Or two.


Photo: Pixabay


Someone named Nanea Hoffman said this:
No matter what chaos and difficulty the world throws at you, remember: there are still fresh cups of coffee and good books and funny friends and tiny moments of nerdy joy to celebrate.

If caregiving isn’t chaotic and difficult at times, then I don’t know what is. One of the things my husband, Gary, and I learned during his cancer years took us entirely too long to grasp: to focus outward, away from our own difficulties. To see our fellow human beings. To consider that others are facing hardships as we are. To show kindness.

And so on that long, twelve-hour travel day, I smiled at strangers and stood back to let others go in line before me. I chatted with seat mates (but not overly much), gave my packet of tissue to someone with allergies, and prayed silent prayers of blessing for my fellow travelers.

At two different terminals, I stood across the way and listened to guitar players as throngs of people rushed past the music – not hearing, not noticing. And then I cut through the crowds and dropped $ into their open guitar cases. The female musician at the Seattle-Tacoma airport smiled directly into my eyes and mouthed, Thank you.


Photo: Marlys


At the Los Angeles terminal, I chatted with a couple of teenaged girls sitting nearby. “What group are you with?” I asked. When I learned they were part of a high school choir traveling to Boston to compete at a music festival, I withdrew $ from a nearby ATM. Introducing myself to the choir director, I explained why I wanted to make a donation – because of my own unforgettable, gleeful national and international travels with teenagers.

The young choir director stared at me with open mouth.

I went to sit at a different gate so no one would feel awkward, but the director found me: “Is it OK if we sing a song for you.”

I would absolutely love a song!

I held my breath, the music was that gorgeous. This a cappella harmony. These beautiful teenagers. Their eyes following their director’s charge to go loud, to go soft, to end full out. Other passengers-in-waiting stood up to videotape and clapped along with me in delight.


Photo: Marlys


How nerdily joyous it was to notice—really notice—and show kindness in whatever small way I could throughout the long, tedious travel day. Because who knows which ones were carrying a cancer diagnosis, or some other heartbreak or fear – hidden behind their masked faces as they hurried past.

Sitting up and paying attention to my fellow human beings in airports and on planes and looking for opportunity to do random kindness … this, this brought moments of nerdy joy. And the twelve-hour gift of a travel day—flying north to get south, my boots on the ground in four different states—was the best kind of day.

What if, from our own challenging place as caregivers, we adopted an outward focus? What if we gave a little of ourselves to other people? A loaf of home-baked pumpkin bread. A note to accompany a coffee shop gift card: “I appreciate you in my life.” A fuzzy, hand-knitted scarf. A plant or a favorite book. Would that help remove the focus from our loss for a short period of time and place it on someone else? And in doing so, would that help lessen our own difficulties?

Speaking from experience, Yes, oh yes.

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