Wow, I know where to come when I want/need encouragement, don’t I? 🙂 Thanks so much for the comments to the related post, ladies.
The temper has cooled somewhat since I wrote that post, but the resolve to do something hasn’t. I have been looking into some education options and volunteer opportunities over the past couple of days. Volunteering feels like the right place to start and then I’ll see where it goes from there. It’s not something that I’m going to jump into tomorrow, since I have enough on my plate at the moment. But it’s certainly what I will do when the time is right. I’ve felt outrage of that sort before and I know that it won’t go away.
It was a similar sense of outrage that got me into nursing, funnily enough. I always had a “thing” for the elderly, perhaps from having my elderly paternal grandparents in the same house when I was very young, and from being around other seniors so much in my youth. But I can tell you exactly when I knew that I wanted to work with the elderly in some capacity. Up to that moment in my last year of high school I had only ever wanted to be a teacher. It was an ambition that started very young and that got stronger and stronger with each passing year. But one incident totally turned my life in another direction.
One day after school I was walking down the main street in my home town, on my way to an evening of work at my aunt and uncle’s restaurant. As usual, I was lost in my own little world, but a commotion just ahead dragged me back to reality with a start. I saw a frail, very elderly cousin of my dad’s trying to cross the street at a crosswalk. But he couldn’t cross because some obnoxious teenage bullies in pickup trucks wouldn’t let him. They were stopped on either side of the crosswalk, and every time he stepped off the curb to try to cross, they’d rev their engines, like they were going to run him down. Meanwhile, a crowd of teenage onlookers had gathered and were laughing and jeering. I could see the look on his face and his body language from where I was, and it was absolutely heartbreaking. In that moment I finally realized what the term “blind rage” feels like. I ran to help him, but before I could get there he decided to chance it and started across the street. Just as he got to about the middle, one of the little bastards revved their engine again. It startled him, he lost his balance, and went down. I don’t remember the last part of my run because of the rage and tears. But I’ll never, ever, ever forget the look in his eyes when I got to him. It still makes me cry all these years later when I think about it. 😦 Fortunately no major physical damage was done in the fall, but the other kinds of damage were so very evident in his eyes.
He was just the sweetest, kindest, gentlest man imaginable and I can’t even begin to describe the sense of outrage I felt at what had been done to him. They had picked on him just because he was old, frail, and unable to fight back. He never got over it, either. Dad and I went to see him a short time later and he had just given up. That public humiliation had totally broken his spirit and robbed him of his zest for life. He died a couple of months later, having never ventured out of his house again.
But out of that outrage came a sense of knowing what I had to do. Just like the second time I felt it and walked out of a nightmare marriage. One day my precious, then almost three-year-old shook me rigid with something that came out of her mouth, planted in her head by her father. And that was it. My eyes flew open at long last, blind fury set in, and she and I were out of there. All of the threats, all of the danger, and all of the fear were no match for the determination that came from the outrage. I knew what I had to do and I did it.
Just as I will again. I know that the woman mentioned in the previous post is one of the few bad apples among bushels of really good, really caring ones who staff shelters and other facilities. But the need for more is always there and that’s what I now know I need to do. And what I will do.