I met a lovely lady recently and am now spending one afternoon a week with her so her son, her caregiver, can go out and do the marketing, meet a friend, have lunch, or just hang out. Truly, other than her “git-along” being a bit hampered, and her sight and hearing not what they once were, this 93-year-old sunbeam is in marvelous health.
The first time I visited her, she told me all about her adult life: having one son, becoming a widow at a young age, raising her son alone, and pursuing a career in one of the veterinary departments at N.C. State. For a South Carolina small-town girl, born in the mid-1920s, she was a pioneer. Many women her age would have collapsed at the death of a husband and packed her bags to return home. Many women her age never even gave a moment’s thought to working outside the home. But, this firecracker stayed here in Raleigh and did what she had to do for the best interests of her son.
It was the second visit I found so delightful and educational! She introduced me to a man named Elliot Engel. No, I didn’t meet Dr. Engel in person, but together we listened to a CD in which Dr. Engel spoke about the author Margaret Mitchell, her fascinating life, and how her novel Gone With the Wind reflects her life story.
Dr. Engel is a known scholar of Charles Dickens. He has undertaken the study of other notable authors and how their lives and experiences influenced their writing. He speaks in a very down-to-earth manner, sharing anecdotes and paralleling them to the writer’s short stories, poems, or novels.
As I left “Sunbeam’s” home, thinking about my introduction to Elliot Engel, I reflected that I didn’t do anything except give her a listening ear, a warm and friendly smile, and affirmation that she is a viable, important individual. I do think, however, that despite my offerings to her, I am the one who came away much richer: not just because I learned about a noted scholar, but because I had the opportunity to spend time with a humble, intelligent, and grateful woman.
-by Elizabeth W., Volunteer