A Day with Martha and Nancy

One of the main catalysts for walking  the Camino was to break my daily routines.  From past experience, I find most of my personal growth occurs when I lean over the edge and push my comfort zone boundaries.   Being in a “challenged”  state forces the mind to zero in on the moment instead of the future or past.  That is the area where clarity and focus creates epiphanies.

There are many ways to change the daily routines of life without flying to Spain and walking 500 miles.  One of my favorites is to volunteer with a local group called Friends in Action.  FIA is a non-bureaucratic and no nonsense organization that simply allows people like me to help seniors with some basic needs.  The actual duties include running simple errands, light yard or house work, and some basic companionship.  Helping other people provides great happiness and like the Camino, there is always a valuable lesson.

Today, I had the pleasure of spending about four hours helping Martha and Nancy prepare for a move.  These two roommates have lived in the same house for thirty years on 2.5 acres of land.  They recently decided to move to a smaller home in Boise.  Nancy happens to be 95 and Martha is 90.  The hearing and eyes are not so good, but their spirit for life is intoxicating.  The neighbor that is coordinating the move assigned me to help clean out their six car garage.  This is where the lesson begins.

While there were certainly many priceless items in this over-sized shed, most of the stuff was just crap.  Much of this crap was covered with mouse crap and soiled with feline juice.  I had king sized plans to fill the dumpster with used paintbrushes, boxes filled with newspapers, and 30 years of accumulated debris.  I loaded my first wheelbarrow full of stuff and was headed to the big can when Martha appeared from nowhere to inspect the items.  When she pulled our two pieces of  rotten wood, I realized that this may be a long afternoon.  If the wood was an issue, there was no hope to dispose of the 29 cans of ancient paint, 19 metal red gasoline containers, and 17 rakes.  I did not even try to lobby to discard the eight boxes that were full of Reader’s Digests.

Why do we all have so much trouble letting go of things, people, and the past?  On the trail in Spain, I had lots of trouble letting go of new friends.  It suddenly dawned on me that 100% of all relationships come to a mortal end.  Instead of focusing on the loss, I decided to celebrate that these people touched my life.  Learning to let go of attachments is not a simple or one-time endeavor.  Instead, it takes a lifelong commitment to change the way we interact and experience people, events, and things.  My goal is to enjoy instead of grasp.

I wonder what Martha and Nancy will teach me next week…..