I am not a big fan of fundraising. It makes me uncomfortable to ask people for money, even when it is asking Grandma for money for my kids’ soccer teams. I just don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong – I understand it – I actually choose to work primarily for non-profit organizations who pay for my services with some of the fruits of their fundraising, so that I can help them produce materials that may ultimately help them fundraise some more. I understand and support fundraising for good causes. I’ve done work for schools, conservation organizations, family services organizations – you name it. I am just usually more comfortable behind-the-scenes. That said, the topic of this entry is surprising me even as I write it.
Two years ago, my father-in-law and his fiancée gave me a lovely gift after I had surgery. They hired a woman named Linda to clean my house every other week while I was recovering. When I had recovered enough to start cleaning my house again, I decided that Linda was a luxury I wasn’t willing to let go so easily. She has been a tremendous help to me over the years. If nothing else, she forces me to catch up on putting the laundry away once every other week, you know, whether it needs it or not. Plus, I am extremely grateful that I haven’t had to scrub toilets for a really long time. Anyone else who has a young boy living in her house will concur that this fact alone increases the quality of my life significantly. But most importantly, Linda’s help has freed up my time for other really important things: originally, the time allowed me to focus on recovering from surgery. Now, it frees up my time so that I can give more undivided attention to my kids.
Linda came into my life at a really challenging time, and she helped me through it. I have recently found from the friend who recommended her that she came into her life during a difficult time as well, to help ease some burden when she was overwhelmed with other life challenges. I can only imagine that there are similar stories from her other clients. Linda lightens a load for so many people when other things are demanding their time. I imagine that they are equally grateful for her service.
Linda is a private and proud woman. I don’t know a lot about her personal life, but I do know some things about her. I know her well enough that I trust her in my home when I am not there. I know she has a dog. I know she loves my dog, and that she gives the dog more loving attention than probably all of my family members combined when she is here. I know that she is kind to my family and to me, and that she doesn’t judge my mess (once she moved and cleaned under my fridge without being asked – I usually don’t do that unless I am moving or getting a new fridge). I know that she works really hard to support herself and her husband, who has had significant health issues for some time. I also know that a few weeks ago, she underwent a double knee replacement surgery.
Leading up to the surgery, she often commented about how she would have to recover quickly, so that she could get back to work as soon as possible. If you are not familiar with knee replacement surgery, it has a long, arduous recovery period. I watched my mother go through it years ago. The physical therapy is painful, and it was a solid three months before my mother was up and about again. Even with her new knees, my mother can’t be on all fours scrubbing a bathroom floor. When I heard Linda talking about getting back to work in six weeks, I was a little worried about her. I am fairly certain that her cleaning business is the main source of income for her family; that her husband’s health issues are serious enough that he is unable to work. But knowing what I know about knee replacement surgery, I couldn’t imagine that Linda would be back to work in six weeks.
A few days ago, I called her house to see how the surgery went and to offer to bring dinner or pick up groceries for her. Recovering from surgery is the pits – I know this from experience – and for me, it felt great when someone came by with a hot meal at the end of the day during those first few weeks when I was trying so hard to feel some semblance of normal. No one answered the phone when I called, so I left a message.
I was surprised when my call was returned not by Linda, but by her husband. I was more surprised when I heard that although the surgery had gone fine, during the night that followed, she suffered more than one stroke, making her recovery time currently unknown, but certainly much longer than originally anticipated. I can’t imagine that she will be cleaning houses again anytime soon, if at all.
Ever since I hung up the phone, I can’t help but think that there has to be something I can do to help her through what must be an incredibly difficult time. Somehow the meal I was going to bring over just doesn’t seem like enough. I am worried for them.
The thought that came to my mind following that phone call was a quote by Mother Teresa: “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”
Linda’s presence after my surgery was a small thing in some ways, but it was so helpful to me. She has always taken pride in her work, recognizing that she provides a valuable service. She helps people. In my opinion, there is no more noble profession than that.
Considering that she can’t work right now, I want to “pay it forward” – I want to return the favor that my in-laws did for me by hiring her to help me after my surgery, and do something to help her in the coming months after hers. So my “small thing filled with great love” is this: I want to give Linda a “bonus” for her years of hard work. I think she deserves a little “paid sick leave” for all of the work she has done over the years to help people.
If you would like to help me with Linda’s bonus, send me an email and we can work out the details. Maybe together we can help two people lessen the burden of a difficult time in their lives, just because it is a good thing to do, and because we can. It doesn’t matter if you know her personally or not. I am a big believer in increasing the number of random acts of kindness in the world. We all need to take care of each other, so put some love out there, people J. If you have any other suggestions for how to help this couple, let me know that, too.
P.S. I am happy to report that thanks to the help of friends and strangers, I was able to present Linda with a cash gift of $400. I am sure this will be helpful for her as she continues her recovery. Thank you for your generosity. I never cease to be amazed by the goodness of people.