I took my first job when I was sixteen working as a student aide at a nursing home. I will never forget the moment when it dawned on me that the elderly, frail, and sometimes difficult residents were "real" people who lived significant lives.
Because we lived in a small town, the older nurses and staff workers had life-long relationships with many of the residents, and knew their histories and relatives. As we worked together, they would sometimes tell me stories of their lives. It was then that Fred became more than just a "resident" to be fed, bathed, and clothed.
Fred and his wife had no children, but they loved people. All their lives they lived in a big, two-story house with an expansive front porch. On sultry summer evenings Fred and his wife would sit on the front porch with a cold pitcher of lemonade between them. Anyone that came ambling down the street would be invited to step up on the porch to share conversation and ice cold lemonade.
It's funny how that little vignette changed my attitude toward Fred. I no longer felt impersonal about the way I took care of his needs. This was a man who had offered heart and hospitality to countless people and now it was time for heart and hospitality to be offered back to him.
Our deeds follow us.
Probably, Fred and his wife had a plain, old fashioned pitcher of lemonade. But isn't this apothecary decanter just elegant?