Early on this brittlefrosted New Year’s Day, I tramped the frozen miles around the lake hills in my new hiking boots, working up a painful blister on a foot that had otherwise gone numb with cold. By the time my heel was too raw to go any further, I’d reached the spillway on the north end of the lake where the water plant was humming nearby.
The water plant worker wasn’t surprised to see me come in, in fact, he seemed glad. I sat down on the metal grate steps leading up to a tank of something smelling distinctly non-potable while he fetched the first aid kit. They weren’t real Bandaids, “I’m not sure what kind they are,” he said, holding out a handful of generic adhesive bandages. Those are called “plasters” in Scotland, a factoid I don’t share. In rural America, most minimum wage workers over the age of 40 don’t appreciate trivia about places they’ll never see.
For all I know, this guy, in spite of his menial job, might have seen plenty of places. But right now he was focused on a blister that looked like a boiled shrimp stuck to my Achilles tendon. “Looks real sore,” he said with concern. I tried tough . . . not saying anything like a stoic James Bond except for the stoic James Bond-part. Then, just to change the subject, I ask him if he’s made a New Year’s Resolution. In an end-of-third-shift voice, he shrugs Nah. I’m not that young anymore. You?
No, me neither, but I’m striving to be more grateful, I say. He nods thoughtfully and gives me some extra bandages to take, plus a water bottle. Do I need to use the phone? Want a cuppa coffee before I go? No thank you, but thank you….very much. I appreciate it, you’re very kind. I’ve got my gratitude game on.
Not a problem. A lot of people stop in for one reason or another, he reflects. Makes him feel good to help people. He gets lonely out here. One time this guy who was carrying his blind old dog that couldn’t walk anymore stopped in . . . long story, he said. It was.
I guess a kind of humility finds us all in the end, which is the beginning of kindness . . . to others, to ourselves.
After I left, I walked and my foot didn’t hurt so much. I figured that I would make a resolution after all—to be willing to ask for help and to be more helpful. A lot of new things to be grateful for will come from such resolve, I thought. It felt worthy . . . both strong and weak like water.
I said it out loud to the dormant seeds in their milk pods and to the quiet forest beyond. An eagle circling in the sky hovered briefly above me, then flew higher than I could see . . . onto places none of us have ever seen.