Les Was More
When I was 20 years old and working my way through junior college, one of my jobs was as an Activity Aid in a local Nursing Home. I’d arrange and supervise art activities for the residents. There were quite a few people who lived there that I came to care very deeply about. One such gentleman was named Les.
Les was an elderly man suffering from deterioration of his body due to diabetes and stroke. On my days off, I would load his wheelchair into the back of my rusted out Chevy Nova and give him a ride home to spend time there with his wife. She could not manage transporting him on her own, and it seemed a small kindness to offer to help.
While his wife was effusively grateful, Les was not the kind of person who expressed his feelings, save for irritation. Most often it was because you were moving him in a way that caused him pain, or if you couldn’t understand what he was saying. Because of the stroke he could not speak well, but I always knew how he felt on the ride back to the Nursing Home by the tears he tried to hide, turning his head and looking out the passenger seat window the entire time.
Les made the tiled trivet in the picture during my art activities classes. I watched him work on it for over a month. He only had the use of one hand, and he would carefully select each tile and glue it down with painstaking patience. The process of grouting and sanding was slow and arduous for him. One day I offered to help, but he waved me off with obvious irritation. He was a proud person and his dependence on others sometimes made him a bit of a curmudgeon. It is a personality trait that I have always found endearing in people. Maybe I like a challenge?
When the trivet was finished, he waved me over and motioned that I should take it, letting me know he had made it for me before abruptly turning his wheelchair and leaving the room. I have kept it these nearly 40 years, and it has always had a place in my kitchen, moving with me from home to home.
Today I looked at the heart and warmly remembered that time in my young life, Les, his family and this gesture of gratitude and love in a piece of art that has more value to me than if it were made by Tiffany & Company. It is a powerful reminder to me that to practice love and gratitude is why we are here. I needed this reminder then, just as I do now.