Last week I discovered something ugly about myself, or, if not ugly, at least in need of some attention, as skin chapped by winter air.
I was delivering dinner to a family in need. A good deed with which I can't take issue. But as I stood at the front door to the family's home, having just passed over the meal to a teenager, I realized that I was waiting. For a thank you, for some acknowledgment of what I'd done, for a verbal equivalent of a pat on the back.
No expression of gratitude arrived. Why not? The dog was barking, frantic to be let out, the children's faces appeared drawn and their expressions stressed. I turned to walk to my car. The truth, I recognized as I drove home, is that this family has far more pressing business than thanking me for my tiny gesture, which would fill bellies for one evening, and perhaps not even that, given how hungry growing humans can be. I felt shame.
I want to do better. I seek the status of the anonymous donor, the person who's managed to take himself or herself wholly out of the act of giving.
Each day I try to take one more step on the long path to adulthood. I'm aware that some never make it all the way to the end of that particular path, which if it were located at a ski area would certainly be the black diamond slope. But that doesn't mean that I, or you, shouldn't try.
I stumbled. But instead of looking for sympathy in others' arms, I am dusting myself off and plodding on towards that better version of myself. She's beckoning.
I tell the first- and second-graders with whom I work that we never stop making mistakes, yes, even those of us who to them are impossibly old. They frown as if they don't believe me, and also as if the notion of learning something new every single day seems downright exhausting.
But it's a process, making a life, or not just making it but making it worthy of itself, and I expect to be making mistakes at seventy-two or eighty-six years old. Still, on the last day of my life, whenever that is, maybe I will finally shake hands with my best self. I'd really like to meet her.