It’s all relative

25 Aug

So much is up in the air.

Last week, we learned that, due to families opting out of remote learning and committing to a full year of online learning, we needed to lose a teacher. A volunteer was called for and we’d hoped to hear by Friday. We also hoped that we wouldn’t get “the call” if no volunteer came forth.

Late Friday, we got another email saying we’d hear next week. That meant another weekend of worry and wondering if and when we’d get details about expectations and requirements for teachers.

My teaching partner and I text frequently to manage our stress and frustration these days. Yesterday was no different. We’d waited all day for news. We both felt hopeful that we were still OK.

I was standing in the kitchen, texting, and could tell that Lucy needed a potty break. I was about to take her out back when I heard rustling in the recycling. Peeking out the back window, I saw a man riffling through the recycing. We’ll wait until he’s gone. I thought and went back to texting.

He was one of the regular recycling people who pass through the neighborhood in which I love. He seemed to be taking longer than usual so I peeked out the back window again and saw that he was actually looking through the garbage cans. I felt my anxiety rise. Our trash cans had been rather full the last two weeks because one of my neighbors was putting his condo up for sale and the tenant in another had moved out. I stayed at the window to be sure the recycler didn’t leave a mess

It was interesting to watch. He rooted deep into the bin and opened bags. He wiped his hands on what appeared to be a well used wet wipe. He was very methodical and stopped frequently, deep in thought as if he were contemplating the very nature of the items he encountered.

I went back to texting with my teaching partner, reflecting on the nature of the relative size of his problems compared to mine. despite the pandemic and the frustration I feel because I don’t know exactly what school will look like, I have a really good life.

It seemed that Lucy could no longer wait, so I leashed her up and we went out. The recycler greeted me in broken English. I returned his greeting as we headed out back in the opposite direction. Lucy was quick and we were back in the house in a minute. The recycler was still there, carefully weighing his options. He had two, fairly full bags. I removed Lucy’s leash, then popped my head out the door and asked the recycler, “Do you need another bag?”

“No. Thank you. I have more bag.” was all he said. He waved to me and headed off to the apartment complex next door.

9 Responses to “It’s all relative”

  1. Fran McCrackin August 25, 2020 at 7:14 am #

    This is very moving. You show the range of feelings, first about your work anxiety and then the fear then sympathy for the stranger in your trash. What a lot to take in on a morning. Your slice is such an effective reminder to keep perspective, as well as to keep empathy.

  2. Lakshmi Bhat August 25, 2020 at 7:19 am #

    Yes, when we look at the problems of others, our problems are not really problems. When I read about people who have lost their jobs or farmers losing their crops due to heavy rain, I know that I am lucky. Thank you for sharing.

  3. arjeha August 25, 2020 at 7:43 am #

    How true. We think our problems are big and insurmountable. Then we see someone whose problems are bigger than ours and we realize how well off we are.

  4. jumpofffindwings August 25, 2020 at 8:00 am #

    These are the stories everyone needs to hear right now. I think so much about how lucky I am, how many are struggling in ways that I can only imagine. You have helped us “see” that life different from the one I, at least, live. I get your reluctance, your caution, too. I encounter people taking shelter in a short under-the-highway tunnel when it’s pouring and I’m taking my dog to the beach for a walk. I feel guilty for my reaction, but I also understand where anxiety comes from. Best thoughts to you—and your colleague.

  5. Kathleen Parker August 25, 2020 at 8:08 am #

    Very thoughtful post.

    Sincerely, Kathleen Parker 💕


  6. Writing to Learn, Learning to Write August 25, 2020 at 8:23 am #

    And thank YOU for this reminder. It may be stressful, and there sure is a lot that seems unknown, but we have good jobs and we really need to remember how lucky we are.

  7. franmcveigh August 25, 2020 at 9:41 am #

    Ah, yes, there are often bigger problems in life than our own and One man’s trash can be another’s treasure.

  8. Juliette Awua-Kyerematen August 25, 2020 at 4:01 pm #

    Your slice makes your reader think deeply about life and our different circumstances.

  9. Lisa Corbett August 25, 2020 at 5:12 pm #

    Perspective! But it’s still nerve-wracking to wait for everyone to make up their minds about what we are doing!!

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