Umbrella Policies and Quarantine
I write to you of umbrellas today. For some reason they are on my mind. Perhaps because we are all supposed to remain in small circles in quarantine. No closer than six feet apart. With only a few in our immediate circle, no matter where we are.
And that is why I think of umbrellas.They are a lovely manifestation of a protective circle—offering shade or relief from rain. I have six of them at my house right now, including a black and white striped one that is allowing me to sit outside and type. Umbrellas come in many colors. I have teal blue, dark grey, lime green, the aforementioned zebra striped one, and two vermillion orange ones placed strategically on various decks and balconies for pops of color.
New Yorkers love umbrellas. They buy them on one corner for ten dollars and angrily stuff them upside down in trash cans on the next corner because the spines have turned inside out from the wind. My friend Linda and I laughed and marveled at this. How flimsy cheap umbrellas can be, even as we got drenched in our own summer rainstorm.
I have an umbrella policy, in fact, designed to cover any possible bad thing that might happen to me or my physical possessions. Perhaps you know someone who carries an umbrella policy of sunshine on rainy days—who has a persistently positive outlook that can find a circle of joy even in the midst of a storm. Likewise, we all know someone who walks under an umbrella policy of gloom and doom. No matter how bright the day is they choose to huddle under a shadow of “downums.”
When I was carrying out one of my umbrella purchases at Home Depot recently I was assisted by a man named Mark. His lined face and gray hair revealed him to be no spring chicken. I asked how long he had worked there and he said two years. He came out of retirement due to boredom and was working as a cashier. Two of the outdoor “loaders” failed to show up one particular day, and the manager asked in desperation if Mark would help people load up outside. He said yes. He recounted “When I got home that night my Fit Bit registered that I had walked 41,000 steps that day. I marched in to the manager the next morning and said ‘I don’t want to be a cashier anymore. I want to work outside helping load people’s trucks and cars.’ The manager thought I was crazy. He warned ‘You’ll be lifting bags of concrete and lumber and bricks and all manner of heavy things, all day long.’ Mark said ‘I want this. It will be good for me.’” And he’s been an outdoor worker ever since. He said “When I started this job I weighed 190 pounds. I now weigh 160 lbs. I went in for my physical and the doctor said “You are going to live to be a 100! Your numbers are the best out of all my patients.” He laughed. “Not a bad way to start the day, eh?” He lifted my three 40 pound bags of salt easily, and deftly placed them in my car.
Mark reminded me of a character in Aesop’s fables. The army was about to take a long journey and one of the soldiers quickly volunteered to carry the heaviest load of supplies—the food. The other soldiers rushed to carry the lighter packs. As the journey went on for days and weeks the food supply bags became the lightest of them all, as the supplies dwindled day by day. What at first glance seemed like the hardest work turned out to be the smartest, and easiest choice for the long haul.
As Marked walked away I visualized his positive mindset as his umbrella policy. It hovers over him and keeps him healthy while others wilt from fear and despair.
Umbrellas come in so many colors and sizes. What color is yours? And underneath it all, what are the spines really made of? * * *
Live. Breathe. Joy. ~ Laurie Beth