Friday, December 10, 2010

Sadness and Grace

I've had a hectic two weeks. It's nearing the end of the semester at the two-year college where I teach. I call this period "HowdIgettaD Days?" I also am trying to finish up November Hunt at the same time edits for October Fest are coming in on top of preparing for a 26-credit teaching load next semester (I did it to myself). Unless you're Sue Ann Jaffarian, this is a lot of work for one person.

As a result, I had only a brief moment to read the headlines before getting to work this past Tuesday. The article that caught my eye was titled, "Elizabeth Edwards Doctors Stop Treatment." Before I read the article, I had only the tabloid snapshot of Ms. Edwards' life: married a hot young attorney, suffered through the death of her 16 year-old son in a car accident, goes on to have two more kids later in life, hot now-older attorney makes presidential bid, wife is diagnosed with breast cancer, wife fights breast cancer, husband cheats on wife and fathers child with mistress. That all this could happen to such an apparently decent human being strikes fear in everything that's important to me as a woman and a mother. It's a tragic story.

That's what I thought before I read the article, anyways. After I read it, I was in awe of this person who, despite every reason to kick life in the head and bubble with anger, had chosen to define herself by her love for her family and her dedication to her community (which includes me and you, by the way. Google it.). She used considerable energy and money to fight against poverty and for health care. She recognized the tabloid view the public had of her, accepted what she couldn't change, and got about her business of making the world a better place.

I was unusually affected when I read, later that same day, that she had died. I don't want to be someone like Elizabeth Edwards. I'm too selfish. But I am glad there were and are people like her, and they inspire me to effect change in some small way. I'm worried I'll continue to be overwhelmed by my responsibilities and let this inspiration pass, however. Please, share with me the ways that you or others you know volunteer/donate/commit time/make a small sacrifice in your life and take responsibility for being a member of a global community.

Happy holidays.


Lisa Bork said...

Elizabeth Edwards' passing struck me, too, Jess. She seemed like a great lady.

This time of year, we always pick two child to "angel" and make sure they get everything on their Christmas list. This year we did it through JC Penney's online program, which runs for a few more days. Most of my in-person volunteer time has always centered around children: reading to them, tutoring, crafts, etc.

Vicki Doudera said...

"All of our days are numbered, we know that," is Elizabeth Edwards' comment that resonates with me.

I give alot of my time to Habitat as my "big" cause, but the thing that I do that means the most to me is visit a wheelchair bound friend every Tuesday and help her from one chair to the other. Four years ago when I started we didn't really know eachother; now we are friends. She teaches me every week about the meaning of true grace.

Jess Lourey said...

Lisa, thank you for that suggestion. Investment in kids, ours and others, is always a good investment, isn't it? Thank you for all you do!

Jess Lourey said...

Vicki, what strikes me about your response is the fact that what we do to help others doesn't need to commit to a large project or organization (though you do that, too--you're amazing!). We can help one person, and that matters.

Fishing said...

I too was profoundly saddened and surprised by her tragic death, there are no words, other than to say I get goosebumps typing this and still want to weep for her.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I think the passing of Elizabeth Edwards affected a lot of us deeply, especially women. She was indeed a beacon of light.

I donate a lot of character names in my books to auctions for charities, libraries, etc. It raises a lot more money for these organizations than I could give personally. Sometimes inserting the names can be tricky, but it always makes me smile to see them and know what they represent. One annual event is the LA Ronald McDonald House. I "sell" 7 names a year with the proceeds going to that charity. I already have a waiting list for 2011.

(The next time someone holds up my work habits as an example, I'm going to take a photo of me slouching in front of the TV.)

Jess Lourey said...

It's amazing how someone we never meant can affect us, isn't it, Fishing? I hope her children can sense the support and hope for their future that we're all sending their way.

Jess Lourey said...

Sue Ann, it doesn't surprise me that you're as creative and generous in your giving as you are dedicated and creative in your work.

I think you should auction off for charity a photo of you slouching in front of the TV.

Darrell James said...

"Cancer" is the big cause at our house. Diana lost her mother to it and I have lost both a brother and a sister to the disease.

I think it's relatively easy to give financially. I find it much harder to give up my time. I could do more, Jess. Thanks for reminding me.

Kathleen Ernst said...

A lovely post and tribute to an amazing woman.

I run so fast I find it difficult to give as much time as I'd like, but a few years ago I did get involved with a homeless shelter for families that makes use of empty Sunday school classrooms during the week. Many area churches participate, so the jobs of providing meals are spread pretty thin. A few times a year I pitch in. It reminds me that even a few hours can make a difference.

Jess Lourey said...

I'm sorry for your losses and your family's losses, Darrell. I think that for some people time is easier to give than money, and for others its the opposite. Either way, you're right that we have to remember that we're all in this together.

Jess Lourey said...

I know exactly what you mean, Kathleen. I don't think it's only writers who suffer from this, but I think the fact that most of us have a full-time job on top of the writing habit makes time difficult to come by. You're so right that even a few hours can make all the difference, though.

I'm currently looking into volunteering at my local animal shelter. I think it might be something I can do with my kids, so I don't have to steal time from them.