SPOTLIGHT ON GENEROSITY: When Two Worlds Collide

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by Patricia Curran

Every Saturday morning I welcome a new weekend by lacing up my sneakers and heading out the door for a long run. As I race through local streets, logging miles and dodging the oblivious driver often in search of a garage sale, I think about the weekend ahead. There will be errands, necessary chores, family obligations and the unexpected call or email. Nonetheless, however the weekend unfolds, I always look forward to Saturday mornings when I facilitate a local writing group for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults. While I turn down winding streets and run through tree-lined neighborhoods, my thoughts wander to events, conversations and particular interactions from the past week. Within this seven-day archive are undoubtedly some proud, bittersweet moments and regrettably there are also moments donned in selfishness, impatience and insincerity; admittedly at times I am the cause, clearly the culprit, sometimes the victim and at other junctures the mere observer. Irrespective of my role, I have partaken and/or witnessed actions and words doused in evident disregard and lack of respect for one another.

On a daily basis we strategically navigate through a world cloaked in combat gear, embroidered with patches of self-proclaimed entitlement—habitually we assume the defense position as we prepare for battle at any given moment. Our chosen maneuvers are often bursting in politicking, tainted in self-absorbed rhetoric and greed. Of course I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that this world I paint with such sweeping brushstrokes of cynicism and charcoal shades of gloom hasn’t at times exhibited a canvas colored with consideration accompanied by a palette blotched in vibrant acts that warm the soul. Yes, of course, we do read about the Good Samaritan, acts of heroism, and the sporadic gestures of generosity—all newsworthy occurrences, but yet reported as extraordinary events rather than everyday occurrences.

And so it begins, at exactly 11 a.m. each and every Saturday morning my worlds tumble and collide. I greet the members of my writing group, some accompanied by aids, others dropped off by a social worker from their respective group homes. We exchange hellos and catch up on the past week as we gather around a large wooden table surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and magazine carousels. I grapple with the glaring dichotomy of this world and the world I journey through the rest of the week. This world, an empathetic microcosm, etched in a resilient spirit of true humanity. Despite their mental and physical challenges, each member of this world is kind, compassionate, genuine, patient, attentive, nonjudgmental and supportive of one another.

The purpose of meeting is to explore the art of writing, and assist with spelling and basic grammar usage. In the midst of writing sentences and reading stories aloud, each participant has taken the time and energy to learn about one another; to listen; to share his/her challenges, hopes and dreams. They have laughed, commiserated and inspired each other with heartfelt words of encouragement. I have come to realize that the members of this group, this particular world, have taught me more about goodwill, thoughtfulness, determination and fortitude than I could ever teach them about sentence structure, correct punctuation and grammar. Eventually our weekly writing session draws to a close, pencils are zipped in cases, goodbyes are extended, and inevitably my recurring thought returns: If only the world at large could take a page from this group’s notebook and consciously make an effort to engage in acts of kindness, tolerance, forgiveness and embrace gratitude, what a wonderful story the world could write.

If you know someone of Generous Spirit who would like to tell their story—or yours—email your story concept to: Kelly@NALImag.com to be included in this feature section.

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