Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I feel so much gratitude these days it's hard to contain. Even when everything goes wrong, like today. (Actually, nothing goes wrong just goes wrong in our own little heads. Everything is as it is.) After the craziness of the day today, I came home, put on my tennis shoes and hopped in my car and zoomed over to Carkeek Park near my house. This beach can wash away anything that ails you, I swear. Today, I arrived just in time for sunset.

A train screeched by hugging the coastline. I grabbed my down jacket and took the ramp down to stretch of sand below. The Olympic mountains shot out of the sky like seated Buddhas. They seemed to be screaming peacefully, if that's possible. Each mountain called for me to "WAKE UP." I felt the wind on my face and the wild waves crash on the shore. The sun started to fall and was so brilliant I thought it might catch the earth on fire. I closed my eyes and took in the last rays of the sun before it was swallowed up by the snow-capped mountains. A tiny circular afterglow seemed to rest in the spot where the sun had been. I felt peace. It was there all along, just got covered up by the drama of the day.

I truly LOVE my job. I am an ESL teacher. It's the best job in the world because IT IS the world in my classroom. I work with immigrants and refugees from all over the world. I love them ALL. Most of the time I am in awe in my classroom. My students are my greatest teachers. I learn from them constantly.

Today, I had to meet with each one of them individually, about 30 students, to help them register for next quarter. On Tuesday night, I also met with 30 students. One by one they would filter into my classroom and sit down. I thought, "Registration, piece of cake..I'm almost done with the quarter." I set up a couple of chairs and as the students came in, they sat down across from me...many of them completely opened up, broke down, revealed secrets, whispered of divorce and pills and unemployment and pain in the head and neck and back, etc. I sat nodding my head for two hours. Sometimes the drama was so close, the chaos so strong, the pain and suffering so real, that I was not sure I could bare it. After each one would finish, they would thank me. When I came home from work, I asked my husband, "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" He kissed me and hugged me and calmed me down and then went to teach his yoga class. I felt drained, but walking along Puget Sound renewed me. I am grateful. Grateful to everyone and everything that crosses my path. Pleasure or pain, all are my teachers.

This is literally where I stopped typing. I am not making this up. There was a knock at the door. No one ever knocks on my door. The knock was loud and hard. I looked through the peep hole and saw my neighbor. I opened the door and saw that she looked a bit panicked. She said, "Kathy, can I come in? I cut my finger and it's really bad." There was blood running out of her finger and I got a towel from the cabinet and we wrapped her finger and I told her to raise her arm over her head. We rushed out to my car and I drove her to the emergency room. They asked my neighbor, who was bleeding, to fill out two pages of medical information. Mind you, this woman just cut off most of the nail on her index finger and was bleeding profusely into the towel. I filled out part of it and she filled out as much as she could. Then we waited. Finally, they called us into the room. My neighbor laid down the gurney and we waited again. Thankfully, we got to share time together as neighbors, otherwise that time would have been long, painful and lonely if she had gone by herself. Finally, Dr. Hook (no kidding) arrived. He took the towel off and she was bleeding on the gurney as he sauntered over to the another room to see if there was any gauze. He came back with scissors, gauze, a very long needle, and cauterizing equipment. He said, "I'm going to have to put your finger to sleep." I thought, that's what they say when your pet is sick and suddenly I was reminded of all my childhood cats. He tied the finger tightly to stop the bleeding. My neighbor breathed deeply as Dr. Hook stuck the needle in to numb the finger. Then, he started cauterizing her finger. Smoke came out and it sort of smelled like something was burning on the stove. Dave with the tube gauze came in and dressed the finger. He let us know that tube gauze is very's from the 70s and you can't find it anymore. We decided we were going to get bumper stickers that said TUBE GAUZE RULES. While we waited for the nurse to check us out we stuffed my purse full of surgical gloves so that she could shower without getting her finger wet. The full moon was shining very brightly as we walked to the car. We passed the cemetery on the way out. My neighbor said, "I guess if you don't make it, they can throw you over the fence." That's how close the cemetery was.

I'm happy my neighbor came to my door and I was there. We had a very nice conversation about her job, my job, the neighborhood, winterizing her pea patch, memories, stories, life. We haven't talked in awhile..other than the wave every now and then. We talked more when the weather was hot and the neighbors were out on their porches and doorsteps. Last summer we had a block party and there were a few rounds of badminton in the backyard. There were also lots of barbecues.

The winter is long and cold and it can be hard. My neighbor is another teacher. She reminded me that we all live so close, but we don't. We can get sucked into our own little worlds and forget about the people around us. We can get sucked into the computer world and forget that there are living, breathing, BLEEDING people out there! She woke me up, just like my students woke me up.

I am so grateful for that.


Sharnanigans said...

what great insights, as always Kathy - and at a time I needed to be reminded of such things myself. Love your outlook

Katherine Jenkins said...

Thanks Sharni...I'm excited about the new little writers community we have started here! It feels like we are all neighbors!

Lille Diane said...

I spent way too many years in SO CA living next door to transient, non-acknowledging-you-even-exist-neighbors. In L.A. you don't dare look at a driver next to you on the freeway in some areas for fear they think you are giving them the stink eye, and may retaliate in road rage. It's one one of the reasons I chose to move to the mid west.

Sometimes it is a crisis that unveils the truth that we really do need each other, and the comfort of a hug, or a hand to hold yours when life takes a bite out of your heart.

Beautifully written, Kathy. I have no doubt the people in your classes are grateful to have you as their welcoming light into a sometimes scary new world.

Heather Conroy said...

How great to hear how much you love your work. You are blessed Kathy!

Judith Marshall said...

I saw your post on SheWrites, and I'd be interested in participating. As a newly published author, I've gained a lot of experience I'd be happy to share with other writers. My novel, "Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever," has received eleven 5-star reviews so far on Amazon.

Katherine Jenkins said...

Thanks Heather and Lily for the kind words. Judith, do you have an e-mail address?