1/21/2008

powered by optimism


The first people you meet in any place can have a dramatic and lasting impression on your overall experience there. Within our first few days, we met a couple, Bruce and Leigh, and their 5-year-old daughter Reese.

Bruce was brought over to the islands by Wal-Mart, as a manager, to help establish new stores. His impression of life here is quite positive, and it was exactly what we needed to hear in our first few days, when we were dazed and confused. I asked him about the things I'd feared for awhile. What about roaches, centipedes, Vog? What about crime, drugs and the public schools?

To each of my fears, he offered some kind of positive antidote. For example, about the roaches, he told me that they do exterminate here, but, should I see one, I could just apply some chemical to my home, leave and voila! No more roaches. About the Vog
(a volcanic smog generated when the lava hits the ocean) we're just too close to the ocean to be bothered by it. Centipedes? You'd have to be out barefoot and careless, or flipping over rocks to get bit. As for crime, he told me, there is almost no gun crime on the island, and his daughter is thriving at the local public school.

Now I believe his impressions are based on real experience, but I also think perceptions help shape experiences. You have to have the eyes to see what is good around you--and an ability to receive every good thing with hands and eyes open wide.

Perhaps you also need a wide view so that you don't fixate (as I sometimes do) on things like roaches, centipedes, or the fact that you currently live amongst ancient Hawaiian burial grounds, in a tsunami evacuation zone and and at the base of a volcano that is expected to erupt at an unknown time. But I digress . . .

Over a year ago, Bruce was hit by a car when he was on his motorcycle. The car smashed him against a stone wall, breaking more than 30 bones and nearly killing him. The doctors were so unsure that he would survive that they didn't set his arm or shoulder. His heart stopped three times.

And Bruce, who was a manager at Wal-Mart and both a father and grandfather, lost most of his memory, his ability to walk and communicate and work. But you should hear him talk about the accident--there's no despair in his voice. In fact, he feels the timing was just about right, if that sort of thing had to happen.

He'd recently sold his home at a profit when the market was good, and he'd put money into savings and moved into a rental. The savings has helped the family to pull through while they await the final settlement.

His wife tells me that they never let him feel sorry for himself--not even for a moment. Now he's walking, talking and swimming. There are gaps in his memory but he accepts that as part of the bargain. He is alive to watch his children and grandchildren grow. It is a fine, fine bargain, considering the alternative.

And he has a job now too, against the wishes of his doctor. He's a cruise ship greeter for the Hard Rock Cafe. When the ships come in, he rises early, goes down to the cafe, cuts up some pineapple and walks down to the docks where he greets the tourists as the come off the ship.

But now Hard Rock Cafe would like to put him into management, which would be way, way, against the wishes of his doctor. And while he does have extensive experience, he's not sure how handy it will be because he keeps drawing a blank about those Wal-Mart years. "But at least," I said, "You can remember that you were a manager. That's something isn't it?"

4 comments:

marji said...

It's so good to have a new, long post from you. I see you as a person open to all that is good. I recall our cat bellowing in the basement, keeping you awake. That was a time when you had every right to complain. You, though, were worried about Domino.
Coincidentally, Max and I have been talking about optimists. He identified the crossing guard at school as one. He has noticed she never complains about the weather, even though she is out in all conditions. He noted once, 'she is just a sunny person, even when it's rainy or cloudy or snowy.'

Jacoby said...

Its nice to read such a post. I couldn't help but smile. He's the type a person you'd want to be around. Glad to hear that you have such good people around you Jenny.

Ser said...

I love this post--and your neighbor Bruce. Although I must tell you, Jenny, you remind me of this man that you write about. Even though you have fears--both the ones I understand, like in the last post, and the natural disaster-type ones that I don't relate to--you are an optimist, too, which is one of the things I love so much about you.

Julia said...

This is a really well-done character sketch-- I can totally imagine Bruce. I also cast my vote for you as an optimist.