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Ray of sunshine in the midst of winter's dark ages

 

January 2, 2010



Grim expressions, snippy answers and a pervading sense of lethargy attest that the doldrums of winter firmly grasp the plains and their inhabitants. Talk of spring meets with an initial uprising of joy, quickly squelched by the knowledge that February isn't over yet. A vague sense of claustrophobia hovers like a personal rain cloud. Good news brings on better moods, but then I step outside, and my nostrils instantly freezing together deflates my newfound happiness. Slipping, and usually falling, bursts my bubble. Snow melting in my shoes instead of on the ground because of a seemingly neverending cold that seeps into my bones also is a surefire way to make me frown. Small hiccups in my day turn into flashes of most often uncalled for anger. Each time I've wandered into the murkiness of my winter mood the past few weeks, I remember one bit of news that keeps bringing me back from the brink of perpetual broodiness — my sister got a job. Washing dishes at a local pizzeria two afternoons a week at minimum wage doesn't sound like much to get excited about, but she's bouncing off the wall. Even after weeks of doing something that is so tedious I often eat off of paper plates to avoid it. Every time I think about her getting a job, I find myself blinking back tears of joy and pride knowing what she's gone through to get to this point. When Sally graduated from high school this past June, it was a minor miracle. She struggled, of course, like most high school students do with life and classes. But her struggle was compounded by her Down's Syndrome. She didn't understand why she was graduating without applying to college or lining up a job like so many of her peers were busy doing. Her older siblings both attended college and have solid jobs. Having watched us over the years made her want the same things. More and more frequently she had emotional outbursts that had everyone holding their breath until she caught hers again. My mother worked to line up interviews for jobs for which she knew Sally would never be hired. The frustration and denials took their toll, and the subject became one that wasn't discussed. Then there was a glimmer of hope. Mom told me about the slight chance of Sally being hired at the local pizza place but refused to discuss the issue in depth for fear of jinxing it. The owner, Jason, had a stepson who also has developmental disabilities and works in the restaurant, so Jason knows that Sally is not an average person. He understands that there might be shortcomings and a longerthan- normal learning curve, but he was willing to give Sally a chance. He basically created a position for her because he also knows that she will happily and earnestly do her one job with unparalleled attention to detail once she has learned it. We all have those days when nothing goes according to plan, when we doubt ourselves and our life decisions. Those days seem to multiply in the winter here. When I find myself being grouchy at something for not conforming to my idea of what it should be, I think of Sally, busy washing dishes and choosing what to buy with her paycheck. Her happiness doing a job that I pointedly avoid, puts my grumpiness at a less-than-perfect anything into instant perspective. Knowing that she has a new sense of purpose buoys mine. Her revamped self-confidence brings a grin to my face. Thinking of her cheerfully scrubbing away makes me remember how blessed I am to have a job I love, one that I chose. Regardless of a day's events, if she can be happy washing dishes, I can be thrilled to be doing something in which I truly believe. And thinking about Jason having faith in her capabilities, when most people let a perfunctory glance do their deciding about her for them, makes me remember that there are good people in this world of ice and cold. I might not even realize when spring arrives if I become any happier. (Alice Campbell is a reporter for the Havre Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected] Com.)

 

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