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Dr. Cara Barker

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How Alive Is Your Love?

Posted: 05/26/10 01:33 PM ET

Schlepping my suitcases down the long flight of stairs, across the oak wooden floor to the front door, I notice the kitchen clock. It reads 5:27 a.m, so early, the wrens are barely awake. Beyond the bank of windows looking out into my secret garden, one brave feathered friend beats the rest to the shower, dipping into the fountain behind the blue hydrangeas, and begins to sing.

Meanwhile, outside, on our driveway an unknown taxi driver waits. "Just leave the bags there, please, madam. Leave it to me. I will take care of everything for you. No worries. My name is Joey." He's a saint. Just "what the doctor ordered" after a challenging week of tying up ends before leaving. You know the situation, yes? After a pretty sleep-impaired night with worries that I'd overlook my 4 a.m. alarm, I can use all the help heaven or earth might bring my way.

"Beautiful garden," says Joey. "That first rose is a beauty." Pointing to my Peace Rose, the first of its kin to make it into bloom, (my favorite of the species), I pause to smell her. Pure perfume, so deep, I want to shove my nose down into the nectar, in order to memorize the moment. I'm big on memorizing moments.

"I'm happy to wait if you want to double-check anything inside," he says. Grabbing the opportunity, I return inside to check all burners off, turn down the heat and secure the back door. As I do so, I catch, from the corner of my eye a sentence I'd scribbled down the night before, by the phone:

"When its over
I want to say
All my life
I was a bride
Married to amazement."
Mary Oliver, from "When Death Comes"

"Married to amazement," I muse, locking the door. What could this mean for me, today? The whole notion of moving from one airport to the next, brings many things to mind, like security lines and waiting, but amazement? All I know is that I'd love to have amazement as my travel companion. When you are amazed, there is aliveness, love unfolding, life itself.

I needn't wait long. Driving down State Street, toward Lake Washington, inching to 405 Interstate, amazement makes its appearance. Commenting on Joey's impressive attitude of service, I ask him who modeled this quality for him. His parents? His grandparents? A teacher? Joey smiles. "I can't tell you for sure. I just love what I do!" To "what do you love about it," Joey answered: "This is my dream. My friends say I should have a bigger dream. But, this is my dream. I love taking good care of people. I love taking them places. I especially love taking them where they need to go, and they don't have to worry, because I do my best. That's my most important dream: to do my very best every day."

Turns out that 24-year-old Joey hails from New Delhi, and came to this country with his family in 1991, when he was 15. "We left everything in India and came to Los Angeles. It was very hard there, and some people we met were mean. We did not want to make a new life on such soil. So, we took a Greyhound bus to Seattle, and stayed for a while with a family. Their daughter helped me find a little job, and learn to drive. Where I come from, it doesn't go well for girls. So, since my mother and father had to find jobs because we had nothing, I decided to find a job, too, help out, and encourage my sister to go to school instead of me. She couldn't have done that back in India.

"After one year, I saved enough to help my family. My father, by then, had a good job as a clerk at Seven Eleven. I went to school and got all A's, so then, in a few more years, had four scholarships offered me. I graduated from college, and knew I wanted to help. I thought how that daughter was so kind to my family, and encouraged me to drive, and helped us, even though she didn't have to, so this is what I wanted to do for others, in little ways, helping their life be better. This is the job I love so much, and my customers call me again and again. They are my boss, and I am my boss of doing my best."

Before I knew it, time had flown, and I was asking for Joey's card, so he could meet me at the airport on my return. Overhead, a rainbow now replaced the early morning rain. Amazing. Mary Oliver's lines came back to me.

"When its over
I want to say
All my life
I was a bride
Married to amazement."

The next day, I met Fiona, that sort of old soul who just restores your faith in humanity, despite the evening news. Coming out of the restroom stall in a New York hotel, I met an old Italian woman, maybe in her early 80's, with a face so wrinkled you could barely make out her chocolate brown eyes from the well-tanned leathery skin surrounding them. Somehow, they corresponded to her dropping stockings atop her tennis shoes. Meticulously folding a paper towel, Fiona began to wipe the splats and spills of water other women had left behind on the counter top surrounding the basins.

Her intentional, graceful movements were mesmerizing. "Do you ever get tired of cleaning up after other people?" I asked. "Oh, no, my dear," said Fiona, wiping her age-spotted, tiny hands on crisp white apron over her black uniform. "I'm so lucky to have a job! People just get in a hurry, that's all. I can help them out, by doing what they would do if they had the time. I like cleaning. I'm a good cleaner. My apartment is clean, too. Maybe not like when I was younger. I can't see so good these days." Later that day, when I returned, Fiona was well at work, this time dabbing at a rather worn little brown stuffed bear, with soap and then water, after which, she held the toy under the dryer patiently.

To my question of what happened, Fiona offered: "Someone left this in the stall. You know how children are with their little friends. I don't want the little girl to have a dirty bear to hug. My great grandson lives in Sicily. I've never hugged him. Too old to go back home. So, this child's my great grandbaby, too. We must love them. They belong to all of us." As I left, Fiona continued drying the damp fur, section by section.

Amazing. As I walked out of the Ladies Room, I recalled that poster found in Mother Teresa's room with a poem on it, one apparently written by someone for their graduation. One of the lines came back to me which describes the sort of love -- alive and well -- in people like Fiona, Joey, and, I suspect, you, as well. It goes:

"...The good you do today will be forgotten by tomorrow.
Do good, anyway...."

It resonates, for me, with Mary Oliver's wish. In our world, with so much bad news and disappointment, it is easy to let our inner predators convince us that love is dead, and kindness, out-dated. Don't you believe them! Let's not join one more person crying the "ain't it awful" dirge.

The question is, are we willing to 'do good anyway?' Are we willing to take time to remember that it is possible to draw a Greater Love through our wounds into our daily work, in little ways? Are we open to find amazing love alive in our world? Are we leaving love's legacy behind in our finger and footprints today the way we'd most like?

To be continued....

What is the legacy you want to leave behind? What are the simple acts you've observed that have touched your heart, and reminded you of the imperative of keeping love alive? I'm listening! Thanks for passing this along to your crew! Love, Cara

To save time, click on "Become A Fan." For more, contact me at dr.carabarker@gmail.com, carabarker.net, and join "The Love Project." Coming soon: a time-tested program: "Coming Home to You," "The Art of Authenticity," "The Next Step" and others; and this summer: a teleconference series culled from your requests and comments.

 

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