I was reading an article in People magazine when I came across a compelling quote by Alex Trebek. It especially resonated with me because of my professional involvement with young (and not so) college students. Here’s what he had to say:
“When I was growing up in Ontario, if you were on the street and made eye contact with someone, you would say “good morning,” even if you didn’t know them. Now everyone has their face buried in their cellphones or have earphones in. We’ve become isolationists. There’s a lack of civility in our society right now that bothers me. I always ride the subway when I am in New York, and everyone is just looking down at their phones. It frightens me that we’re losing sensitivity toward others. “
I often think of the movie Wall.E when I ponder the roles the cell phone and texting have taken in our lives today. Wall.E is the story of an enterprising and adorable little robot who finds himself in a space-city where scores of humans migrated when the earth was destroyed in a nuclear attack. The humans have become glutinous and essentially immobile and spend their days floating around on motorized chaises, talking on phones while ignoring the people right next to them. It’s a provocative little film and despite its clear commentary on the state of humankind, it leaves us with a feel-good ending.
I’m anxious to see what our feel-good ending will be.
For over 20 years our paths crossed almost daily when he was walking his dog and I was either riding my bike or running in the days before my knee said enough. He had two dogs during those 20 plus years. He didn’t walk for a while after his first dog died. I missed them. I was happy to see him back with his newly adopted friend.
In all that time we never spoke more than a comment or two about the weather or some other silly thing, yet he and his dog became part of my daily rhythm. They could be counted on when other things couldn’t. He, with his jaunty little walk, and his faithful lab marching along beside him. It gave me a comfort I couldn’t understand to see them pass each day.
Then one day, he wasn’t jaunty anymore. His chin began to
drop until after a few short months it became attached to his chest. He
couldn’t raise his head or talk and a friendly greeting was met with a grunt.
Drool soaked the front of his chest and he wasted away before our eyes.
ALS, or so he told us before he was no longer able to speak. Still, he walked. His pace became snail-like, but twice a day, no matter what, he and his dog walked by our house. Until they didn’t. And that’s when I knew.
Somehow, someway, a vacant house calls out to you, telling
you it’s lonely. This week his house called out to me. It might have had
something to do with the dumpster in the driveway, the lack of footprints in
the snow, and its darkness now at night. He’s not there, and neither is his
I feel a tremendous sense of loss for this man, who I barely knew. It’s like a song off key with no beat or rhythm.
She was timid. She would come out of her kennel, but the brakes went on when it was time to move on. So rather than push, I sat down on the floor right in front of her kennel and she crawled into my lap and right there and then I wanted her to be mine. But with four babies of my own at home, that was not to be. But still, I became attached. I wanted to be the one to walk her, to pet her, to love her and I felt a sense of ownership I had no right to feel. She taught me this. She taught me that she needed love from whoever would give it to her. She loved my love, but she loved everyone’s love, too. She taught me that I am lucky to have even a little precious time and that I must celebrate all the other walks, pets, and loving she gets from all the other volunteers. She taught me it’s about the dogs, not about me.
My shelter friends are teaching me more about life and love than I learned anywhere else.
They make me sad, all those once magnificent Christmas trees. The real ones, now neglected and naked by the side of the road. I wonder what they were like when they were “before,” when they graced a hillside in spring, or accompanied their deciduous neighbors during the vibrant blazing of fall.
When I was a child I begged for a “real” tree every Christmas time. I loved the smell of pine and the way it felt like I had my own forest in the living room. I loved that I had to crawl under the branches to make sure there was enough water in the tree stand. I loved how the needles fell off, covering the carpet under the tree. My parents did not love these things.
Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications