My new litmus test for humanity is this: are you the type of person to visit someone in a nursing home and feed them soup? There is much banter over kindness, giving of yourself, and loving one another, but at the end of the day, what does that really look like? I’ve seen puffed up pretty boys expounding on good deeds and beauties talking about volunteering, but if I can’t see them feeding someone soup, their words ring hollow to me.
Love? Humanity? For me? It’s the lasting image of watching Bill feed Enid soup. I spent the better part of two years visiting one of my parents on a locked Dementia care unit. Eating was the last thing that my family member still enjoyed, and he did so quickly and with gusto. Enid was on the same unit and shook, so she had a harder time eating. Her husband, Bill, came to visit faithfully and helped feed her, slowly, wiping her mouth between spoonfuls. Talking all the while to her and other residents. After meals, they would often retire to the t.v. area, holding hands on the couch.
If this sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel, you’re not far off. What’s missing is the banging and the groaning of the other residents. The repetitions of the agitated. There was always a scent diffuser going full blast to mask the smell of urine. It was, and remains, an impressive care facility, so I’m not knocking it, far from it. Alzheimer’s is a lot of things, but beautiful isn’t one of them. Not so for Bill and Enid. They were couple set apart, love personified. It was an inspiration to watch how Bill cared for his wife.
After one particularly trying visit to the unit, my husband asked me what was the matter. “I just watched the most loving thing today. Bill was feeding Enid soup. I don’t think you would do the same thing. I totally bet on the wrong pony.” My spouse assured me that he would feed me in my later years if needed. I hope so, but I doubt it. The way I see it? I have about 35 years to turn him into a guy like Bill. He’s not there yet. To be fair, I’m not there yet either, but I’m trying to be.
This year I’ve watched some of the greatest generation pass away. Octogenarians and their peers that were the backbone of our community and maybe of yours, too. 42 years on the fire dept, 37 years as a girl scout troop leader, veteran, Salvation Army volunteer, Gold Star families. I’m worried that my generation isn’t quite up to snuff to fill these shoes. Most of us aren’t the type to visit loved ones in nursing homes and feed them with love. Every. Single. Day.
My Facebook feed has been as divided as our country lately. Yours, too? I work with teenagers and college students. Their level of narcissistic tendencies, if unchecked, makes me shudder and a little sick to my stomach some days, yet hopeful on others when I see them trying to understand and learn. I’m not impressed with indignant social media posts, they alone don’t accomplish much. I’m impressed with Bill feeding Enid soup. Each person can actually do something to help us all: Raise a Bill in your home, in your community, within yourself, and we’ll all be better for it. Set the bar higher for humanity. Feed someone with love.