This Ain't No Walnut Grove

By Erin Pickett

Coming from a rather tough, emotionally-withdrawn family, I grew up not expecting a whole lot in the way of kindnesses from relatives, and certainly never from strangers.  “It’s a dog-eat-dog world”  was a credo that stuck with me even through my hippie-esque teen years when I thought an exuberant and optimistic loving of the world would make a difference… I could love the world, but I knew enough through bitter experience not to expect the world to love me back in return.

And I’m not such a blind pessimist, I would argue.  Rather, a fairly sharp-sighted realist.  Why, just today I had to battle my way through two lanes of bumper-to-bumper beltway traffic to simply take an exit ramp.  Why ever do people speed up from behind when it’s clear you want to get over?   Yesterday it was the wary eye of the fellow-shopper who made it to the check-out at the same time I did, whom I quickly deferred to so as not to risk coming to blows.  The days before that…well, it was Christmas shopping season, and I don’t think I have to paint any pictures for you, gentle readers.  I did most of my shopping online, ho-ho-ho.

And we can’t blame it all on the season, it’s not just the holiday frenzy, the good-will-towards-men-gone-awry.  The professional set has had the humanity slowly sucked out of it, and being a layperson there’s as great a need to protect myself from the professionals as it is to rely on them for care.  During one recent doctor’s visit, I had both technician and doctor separately half-attend to me as I mentioned a fairly crucial bit of information:  “I’m pregnant with twins.”  I could have said “I have a green elephant in my shorts” and it would have met with the same “um-hum” monotone before I repeated myself forcefully enough to break through the professional barrier of non-attentiveness.   “O, what? Twins?”  um-hum.

I watch Little House on the Prairie reruns, and frankly, this ain’t no Walnut Grove.  However we might collectively strive to be like Dr. Baker, Ma and Pa and Mary, and emulate the characteristics of patience, goodwill, kindness, modesty, helpfulness, etc.; I find more and more we’re all turning into Harriet Olsens:  short tempered, short sighted, selfish, preoccupied, and yes, a little bitter and sour in turns.

But, against this backdrop of blackness, how much brighter do the rarer good deeds and kindnesses shine?  Like a perfect diamond on velvet, one total stranger met through a community bulletin board has offered to lend me a pair of wrist splints to deal with the pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome I complained about one night.  In fact, she offered to drop them at my door.  Like a single ray of sunlight piercing through the blanket of an afternoon’s cloud-covered sky, my sister-in-law calls to check up on my health, and even though she’s 15 weeks worth of pregnancy discomfort ahead of me offers to be available for any chores I might need doing.  Like a candle in the darkness, the holding open of a door for me, or the holding up of an elevator as I waddle up, or the offer to let me ahead in line when I have only one item as opposed to ten:  these kindnesses, once taken for granted as polite society’s due, shine all the brighter for being so rare, so isolated, in these days.

We could speculate on what the world would be like if we were all a little more aware of others, or were less pre-occupied, or more understanding, or less impatient, but speculation is the job of those minds greater than mine.  As for me, I will not despair of the world, for there’s no point in that either.  Instead I will continue to treasure the blessings as they come, and be thankful for the hope and joy that they provide.

Monthly December © 2005 Erin Pickett and Kentlands Dot Us®