Angela Copeland give’s young people priceless advice which they would do well to heed. In retrospect, the most meaningful, and what I now regard as the most important work I ever did, paid minimum wages and was considered by some of my friends as a demeaning job.
Back then I worked as an orderly at the L.A. County General Hospital. My duties included bathing my patients, shaving them when they couldn’t shave themselves, and spoon feeding those with broken arms or who were too weak to hold a utensil.
I gave them back-rubs, changed their bed sheets (often several times a day), and helped those who needed to get out of their beds and walk through the hallways or to the bathroom. In short, I made them as comfortable as possible and tried to ease the pain and discomfort of their illness or injuries.
Yes, my patients rewarded me with their affection…and they too were dear to me. Yet, foolish me! Instead of seeing the beauty of those moments I spent comforting my patients, I envisioned a position that was prestigious and paid more money.
After reading Emily Dickinson’s poem “Not in Vain” over the years, I finally understand the true meaning of life and work:
“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting robin
unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
How blessed are those who can live and work by the beauty of those words, regardless of their social status!