5. Friendship blossoms in the most unlikely places sometimes
I went to a pretty conservative college, and felt very out of place there. As a result, I ended up befriending one of the gardeners that worked there. We'd smoke spliffs and he'd make me tea in their break room so I didn't have to pay for it. He loved my pet ferrets, and I even brought them over to his place one when I visited. He was a rough around the edges kind of guy... had lots of prison tattoos from his time inside, came from a very deprived area of the city, had a drug addicted ex who he would throw drugs to inside and orange over the wall of the prison she was in. He was really turning his life around, though. He had an apartment he got from the council for almost nothing, and was really house proud. He had me over for dinner once and his apartment was beautiful and nicely decorated. We were pretty different people, and his world was so out of my personal sphere of experience, but he was a lovely person and we always had great craic together chatting and smoking.
After I left college we lost touch. I tried calling and texting him a few times, and even gave my number to one of the other gardeners to pass on to him, but never heard back. A few weeks ago, well over a year since we had last seen each other, the secretary of my college called to tell me that he was dead. The reason I hadn't heard from him was because his abusive junkie ex got out of prison and they got back together. She would take his phone and wallet so he couldn't do anything without her permission, and when he got ill and she didn't think he should go to the doctor, he didn't go... the police and his landlord eventually broke into his place, with his brother, and convinced him to go into hospital, but he died.
Apparently at his wake, where the other gardeners from the college were in attendance, his family approached them to ask about a girl he had been friends with that he spoke really highly of. They said they didn't know her name, but that she was a student in the college and kept ferrets. The college figured out who they meant and called me. I went to his cremation the next day, and his family were delighted to see me and welcomed me as one of their own. I realised when I arrived that there were only about 20 people present. I hadn't realised that his life was so lonely, or that his ex was abusive until I spoke to his brother and asked about her (since I only ever heard about her from him). I also hadn't realised he thought so highly of me, either, or that he'd ever have cause to talk about me with anybody else. It makes me so sad to think about.
6. When you've had a hard day at work, this goes a long way
While I was working as a clerk at a grocery store, I took the job very seriously. I always took an interest in everyone that came in my line and always tried to converse with them, when they desired it. (I hardly conversed with my co-workers since this was strongly curbed by management, which is indeed good for the customer). One day I finished with a customer and as she leaves she looks me in the eye and says "Every time I come in here you are so helpful and kind, and that means a lot to me." Onions... onions everywhere...
7. Never be afraid to ask for help
I just finished talking to one of my friends online, and something wasn't right. She didn't seem her usual weird self. The feeling didn't go away through the night, and it got progressively worse. It was about 11:30pm and I decided to call her, just to assure myself that everything was okay. The answer I got was her incredibly angry that I woke her up. I told her I was concerned for some reason, and she hung up on me. I felt better that she was okay, and finally slept.
Fast forward 5 years, and I run into her at the shopping mall. We talked for a bit and I ended up bringing up that moment, joking that I've always been overly worried about my friends. She broke down in tears in the middle of the store and told me that she was going to kill herself that night. She was moments away from hanging herself when I called asking if she was okay. After that call, she couldn't bring herself to kill herself. She said that she's always owed her life right now to me, and that she wouldn't be alive right now if I didn't make that simple phone call. It made me realise how simple things can make a huge impact on someone's life.
8. Grab the kleenex before you read this one
I volunteered at a senior citizens community during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My favorite thing to have all the elderly people come to the lounge and I'd tell them about my life whether it be school, relationship problems (they give the best relationship advice), etc. And they would tell awesome stories from their past, reliving different time periods in their lives with each other. I would just sit there and listen and have a good time. Eventually my dad got a new job in a different city, so I told them that I would be leaving soon. On the last day, they all wrote me a card, and bought me a cake. Of course I teared up and so did they as well. We all said our goodbyes and they all left, but as a volunteer, I had to stay behind and clean up. One lady stayed behind, came up to me and kissed me on the cheek. She said that she was lonely after her husband passed and that her children died before any of them could get married so she never got to have grandkids. Every time she saw me, she would think, "my grandchild would've been just like him." I cried even more, hugged her, thanked her for all the experiences.
Half a year later, I got an email from my volunteer coordinator. This same elderly woman was sick and dying and wished to see me. I drove the 3 hours to see her and man, we had such a fun time just chit-chatting. The coordinator emailed me later saying how wonderful it was for me to visit her and she had the biggest smile on her face after I had left until she passed. It was touching.
Those two years volunteering there have changed my life. I've just had a better look on life, learned to embrace the elderly (they've always got the best advice), and somehow changed my view on death. I've just recently been able to accept that we all die, and not to be afraid of it. If it happens, it happens, but live life to the fullest so that one day, I can retell all of my life stories to some volunteer that hangs out with me when I'm old.
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