A smile never increases in price or decreases in value.
You can find the extraordinary in ordinary people if you just keep your eyes open for it. Here’s one of them.
Erica is one of my mother’s caregivers. At 95, Mother has become feeble enough that she needs help getting from her bed to her wheelchair to her recliner or bathroom or dining table or whatever. She feeds herself, but she couldn’t begin to prepare a meal or wash dishes or anything like that.
Mother lives in a small assisted living home. Not an institutional sort of place, but a normal house in a residential area. It is licensed for up to eight residents and normally has four to six. Unfortunately, it is the nature of such places that the residents come and go—usually due to death. Mother’s been there for a little over three years and has seen maybe two dozen other residents come and go.
Actually, this post is not about my mother. This information is just for background. The story is about Erica.
I have no idea what Erica makes, and it’s none of my business. But after spending over twenty years working with nursing home owners and employees, I know their certified nurses’ assistants don’t make a whole lot more than minimum wage. I suspect a caregiver in a place like Mother’s is paid somewhat in the same range as one in a nursing home.
One of the things that always impressed my in nursing homes was the dedication of the CNAs. Vastly underpaid because of the nature of the business, most of them put their hearts into their work and their residents as if they were making top dollars. Erica does this in spades.
Watching her deal with my mother or her fellow residents, I can almost see the love flowing out of Erica’s heart. This is not a job to her—it’s a calling. A staunch Christian woman, she does her work as unto God.
Erica and Mother on Mother’s 95th birthday
Erica’s work runs the gamut from cooking and serving meals to changing wet or dirty linens to changing adult diapers and cleaning up the attendant mess to bathing the residents. You get the picture. A whole lot of things I wouldn’t want to do. But she does them all with a smile on her face.
We have a tendency to think of people only in the context in which we normally see them. That labels Erica as a caregiver. But it also misses the mark. She’s a single mother raising four kids. Well, two of them are already grown, but she raised them alone as she’s doing her younger two.
Like her, all four of them are Christians who take their relationship with their Lord and Savior seriously. In an era when it’s easy for kids to stray, particularly kids with only one parent who has to work to support them. A lot of them end up in gangs or on drugs or both. But not Erica’s. It’s almost remarkable that she has raised them to be the people they are, considering her circumstances.
As you can see, Erica is very special to me, as well as to my mother and my wife and sister. But I could have written this about Mechelle or Keisha or several other caregivers I know. I’ve discovered extraordinariness in them, too. It’s just a matter of looking for it.
Who do you know in an ordinary position who is truly extraordinary? If you can’t name one—or several—then start looking. Finding one is like finding a diamond in a dumpground.
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.