Daily Archives: April 19, 2011

Reach Out and Touch Someone

When you have a family member with a disability, there are a number of extra tasks that get added to the household to-do list. Some only take seconds: Must clear boots away from doorway before husband gets home and crushes all footwear in his path with his wheelchair. Next: must wipe up messy mud tracks brought in by aforementioned wheelchair – and feel grateful that mud tracks did not get smeared across recently relocated boots.

One of the more time-consuming, sometimes frustrating and even invasive jobs we must take on is the recruiting, screening, interviewing, hiring and training of attendants to help out my husband. Because hubby can’t walk or use his hands well, he hires people to assist him with tasks like washing and dressing. At any given time we have three or four employees working various shifts in our household. And it’s the nature of the industry that, from time to time, one of them graduates from school or starts a family or moves away and we’re stuck with the big business of replacing them.

The process is not entirely painful. We meet some pretty interesting people from a variety of backgrounds. And there are even a few laughs: One recent applicant, lacking perhaps in a few points on professionalism, sent us her resume from an e-mail address called SEXY LOVE. My computer, naturally, flagged it as junk. My husband’s reaction: “Oh, that’s a keeper!”

I certainly hope he meant the application itself and not the candidate.

Last week we received a resume from a guy overseas who’s seeking a sponsored live-in position in Canada. Thanks to the Internet, it’s not unusual for us to get applications like this. But the tone of this young man’s message stood out. His mom, back home in his country of origin, has been diagnosed with colon cancer. He’s studying to be a nurse but desperate for a paid job so he can support her. “Hope you can help me with this,” he wrote. “I really need it now. I’m begging you I know I don’t have to beg but I need to I need to have work I need to help my mom… I don’t know what to do how to find an employer there in Canada. Please help me…”

Sure, it could have been some kind of scam, but it honestly didn’t read like one. I couldn’t ignore it. So I wrote back: I was very sorry to hear of his mother’s diagnosis. I was also sorry that we can’t sponsor a live-in employee to come from another country. But I’d keep my eyes and ears open, and pass on his name and resume if I heard of something suitable.

Twelve hours later came a reply with a thank you and a message that touched me: “Even though you don’t know me at all and you have the choice not to reply still you did and I can feel the sympathy coming from your email,” he wrote. “…The email of yours eases some of the pain I’m feeling right now and not losing hope for I will find someone who will employ me… thank you so much again…”

It had only taken me a minute to write to this young student. And there are all kinds of other and possibly bigger good deeds we do that help people on the other side of the world, like making donations after a natural disaster, or sponsoring an impoverished family.

But rarely do we hear directly from a person we’ve helped when he or she is thousands of miles away. And that, I think, is why this thank-you note felt like a gift. These connections, even across oceans, are what tell us we made a difference.

And we all have the need to make a difference. Sometimes it means writing to someone far, far away. Sometimes it just means moving a pair of boots in the front hall.