Always I was given the opportunity to reach higher than my grasp. I know this journey could not have been possible without the help and influence of people who made a difference in my life. I have been fortunate to be nurtured by positive and caring people. This kindness has left an indelible mark on me. The many instances of the kindness of helping hands aided me through. I know these experiences have forged my attitude to respond to others and their needs.
As I look back, Momma had died and there were my sisters and brothers gathered around our kitchen table, where most decisions were made. I felt small and fearful of my future. They put their grief aside and a plan was formulated. Poppa was retired and financial support for me was an important issue. My brothers would make sure I had an allowance each week and my sisters would see to my daily needs. They were there for me then and always, never making me feel I was a burden. They guided me, gave me love and that allowed me to grow and feel secure. I am grateful to them. It is from them that I learned to give.
I remember so clearly the elderly couple who interviewed Joe and I when we were searching for an apartment, which was to be our first home. They were stern looking, but we came to love Emma and Carmine Rubino. They took us to their bosom and we became part of their family. They shared our joys and sorrows. They shared meals and included us in their family functions. They became surrogate grandparents to our children. I remember nights when they would sit us with us to watch over a sick child. I learned from them to reach out beyond the scope of our immediate family.
They were aware of the need for young parents to have some time alone. They would happily take our children in their apartment upstairs for an overnight stay to give us an evening alone. Kindness and helping hands are not forgotten.
I can remember a bitter cold day in February, the snowdrifts reached the middle of the window on the first flow of our home. Our heating system broke down, and the temperature in the house was slightly higher than the 30 degrees outside. My daughter, Carol, was running a high fever. We could not remain in the house. My dear friend Joy came to the rescue. The family now consisted of six. We gathered the family, packed up food and extra blankets and were welcomed in her home. She had four children of her own. At one point we looked around and all we could see was children. They were everywhere. The children were matched in age, so the house was filled with exuberant youngsters, running, shouting and doing things children do. They slept everywhere, doubled up in bed or on the floor in sleeping bags.
Meals for 12, three times a day was quite a challenge. We probably made 20-30 peanut butter sandwiches and devoured gallons of milk. Toys of every description covered much of the floor in the family room. The blessed hour came when the last child was put to bed. In the midst of this, Joy’s dog, Gypsy, gave birth to six puppies, increasing the anxiety in the household. Surely I have been blessed for these episodes have illustrated what is the best in human nature.
When I became widowed and felt so alone, family and friends did their best to help me through this terrible period. It was only when I became actively involved with others who had experienced the same circumstances, I began to heal. We reached out to each other for solace and understanding. I became emotionally and physically available to those who need comfort. Sometimes it was a telephone call that lasted long past midnight, listening to a new widow or widower deal with real or imagined problems. Sometimes it was a meal I would serve to someone who needed company. Sometimes it was a visit to someone who needed to talk. I would listen into the wee hours of the morning, until we both felt relief from our burden. The giving of my time and myself has enriched my life.
I realize today, nestled in my world of memories, I have encountered many people. Some have left behind words or deeds that have made a difference. We may not leave great monuments as a legacy, but the memory of small acts of kindness will surely leave an imprint on the hearts and minds of those we touched or have touched us.
Be ye kind to one another...
Linda Alessi is a Lebanon Democrat contributing columnist.