Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The People Around Us

I've been thinking a lot today about the sheer number of people one can have contact with in a day ... and the possible repercussions of these meetings.

I've spent the past five days in the hospital (this is not yet another hospital post ... I'm being discharged tonight, and then I'll be free of any last vestiges of medical flotsam on this blog), and I've met a lot of nurses, doctors, nurse aides, secretaries, dieticians, and strangely enough, other patients. I have been unbelievably touched by the kindness and respect I've been shown here--it far surpasses what I've experienced at any other hospital. However, these people are in the business of kindness and respect. I'm not naive enough to think that they'll remember the crazy bleeding IV site (don't ask) or the overflowing pee hat (really don't ask), yet these are things I suspect I will always remember. In a way, it makes me kind of sad that these memorable events will exist only in the annals of my memory.

I once thought that I would remember the name of every single kid I've ever taught, and for the first couple of years I did. However, it wasn't long before they faded away into a larger group with only a few standing out as particularly memorable in the long term, for better or for worse. I saw a former student recently, and the first thing she said to me was, "Mrs. L.!!!!!!! I still miss your class! I will never forget your story about jumping off a moving train." I couldn't remember the poor kid's name, but she remembered my class (okay, scintillating as my class may be, she really remembered a story that was 100% true, 100% unbelievable in spite of that, and 100% the fault of my brother-in-law Jon). This made me sad in much the same way, probably more sad because I felt pretty awful for not remembering what had once made this young lady unique to me (all of my students are unique to me ... at least while they're my students, I guess ...).

When working at a water park, I was checking a guy's cooler for glass or alcohol (neither were allowed inside the park, and he had tons of both). When I told him he had to either toss his stuff or bring it back to his vehicle, he tweaked out and threw a bag of hamburger rolls at me. Does that guy ever remember the fifteen-year-old girl he hucked baked goods at? Does the woman I caught shoplifting at a department store still curse my name the way she did on that day? How about the lady I will always remember for telling me I had a perfect nose and a beautiful hair part (my friends and I started giggling, naturally, and the lady was embarrassed as hell)?

How many people have I touched that I have absolutely no idea about? (I think because of my career path, the number is larger than it would be otherwise, but still ...)

And then I think about the blogs I read, the friends I'm in touch with on Facebook that I haven't seen since high school or, in a couple of cases, even earlier. I've actually become friends with some people on Facebook that I met through similar comments we left on mutual friends' walls. How magical is it that this can happen? And some of the blogs I peruse on a regular basis, I connect with the people that write them, people I've never met in my life, more than I do with many of my real life grab-a-drink-on-a-Friday night buddies.

I guess I've been reminded to always be the best I can be, to do whatever I can for anybody, to live life to the fullest and laugh loudly the whole time because you never know what someone can take away from an interaction with you.