Some folks live their lives, do spectacular things consistently, and are never known beyond their circle of family and friends. I love people like that, who do great things not for any recognition, but because those things need doing and those things make the world a better place. These are some everyday heroes I know:
Olivia: Olivia is a grandmother of many and a great grandmother to more. She works in our cafeteria, one of a handful of elderly ladies who work part time there. They arrive early enough in the morning that it could still be called nighttime to roll out homemade tortillas, doughnuts, and biscuits as big as my hand for children who come ready to eat. Olivia and her husband are far from wealthy financially. They subsist on her part time salary and what he draws from Social Security. Their home is old and small, but immaculate.
State budget woes have forced school districts to make painful cuts. When it became apparent one part time worker would have to be trimmed from the already spare cafeteria staff, Olivia could see how troubled the other ladies were who worked with her, since they were all single. She went home, prayed, and talked with her husband. The next day, she went to the supervisor with a strange request.
"You can cut me, and I want to continue to work. For free, " Olivia said to the supervisor, whose mouth had dropped open.
"Whaa, uhh, uhh, what?" she squeaked out. "Work for free? No salary?"
"No salary," replied Olivia. "If you're able to start paying me later, then that's fine, but if you can't, that's fine, too."
Every morning, Olivia is at her station with her trademark smile and warm biscuit, tortilla, or doughnut to pass out to the students. "And it's a good morning today!" she tells each of them. And it is.
Jenny: When I began losing the first of the 167 lbs I've lost., I was too embarrassed to go to a gym to exercise. All my workouts were done at home. I longed to join a group, but just couldn't force myself. One morning after church, Jenny with the gorgeous, sculpted body caught me in the foyer. "Hey, you're losing weight! Are you exercising?" I told her I was, but only at home.
"You need to come to my exercise class. The price is right because it's free, and I'll kick your butt, but you'll feel comfortable within the class."
At the prodding of one of my daughters, I finally went. Jenny was right. I felt very comfortable with her style of teaching, and she did kick my butt. Jenny's motto is, If you puke, clean it up. If you faint, roll out of the way so no one steps on you. And if you die, make sure someone comes to pick up your body.
Her no nonsense, no whining approach to working out has made a believer out of me and all the women who come. Many of the others are single moms, with pinch tight budgets and great responsibilities on their shoulders. A number of them have come out of bad relationships and their self image has taken a hit. Jenny prods and cajoles them into shape, giving them laughs and a safe place to be part of group. She always refuses to take a cent for her efforts, although she usually ends up buying or seeking out donations of equipment and even workout clothes and shoes for them.
There are also a couple of us who have come out of morbid obesity and although we have thought at times we were going to die in her workouts, she's got us all still living, breathing, and stronger than ever.
Naomi: Naomi and Lyle were literally childhood sweethearts. They met in the second grade and it was in the third grade he told her she was going to be his wife. She thought he was crazy, but sure enough, when they were 18, they married and he shipped off to fight in World War II.
Her prayers for him were fervent, and the Lord brought him home safely after two years of combat. Her hopes of building their family took a cruel turn when she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. Lyle didn't want to adopt, so she swallowed that dream and poured herself into caring for him. People said they almost moved as one person, they were so close.
When Lyle died in their 64th year of marriage, Naomi thought it best that she should die, too. She even asked God to take her home. She was disappointed each morning when she awoke, still breathing. She finally gave herself a good talking to and decided since she was still breathing each morning, she must still have purpose.
She remembered how she had longed for children, and although she had many nieces and nephews and their families to dote on and love, she wanted to do more. She went to a large children's hospital that cares for babies born too early and those battling serious diseases. She read how these babies needed human touch to help them thrive, and sometimes their exhausted parents needed breaks. So Naomi became a rocker.
She reports every morning to a special room where she disinfects herself, dons a sterile gown, and receives babies to cuddle and rock.
While she rocks them, she sings them the songs she stored in her heart but never got to sing to her own children. She whispers in these babies' ears and tells them they will be great men and women some day, how much they are loved, and how very special they are. When the nurses come to pick them up from Naomi, the babies are calm and peaceful, their vitals are strong.
And Naomi, who once asked God to end her life, now prays for more days so she can continue to love these little ones.