I went to the Mansion today for my weekly story reading to the residents. Sylvie was waiting for me. The minute I saw her face, I knew something was wrong.
She looked stricken, even terrified, a look I had never seen on her face before.
One of the Mansion aides had warned me she was very upset, something about her hats and tote bags.
I must have given Sylvie 20 hats over the past year and the Army Of Good sent a whole bunch of tote bags, which she used for her research on religious matters.
The hats are so important to Sylvie, she says they keep her head warm but I think they mean so much to her, they are her identity and comfort, her stylish heads are her trademark. She said the Sherpa white had she was wearing had been borrowed from another residents.
The tote bags are equally important, she stores her correspondence – Sylvie believes it is rude to ignore junk mail, she writes letters back to the junk mail senders.
She loves to get letters from her “friends on your blog,” she tries to answer each one. Her stamps disappear too. You can write Sylvie c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
She said the need for new hats and canvas bags was “urgent,” she said she was terribly upset. I asked her what happened to all those hats and canvas bags, and she said she had no idea, they were just all gone.
She hopped I could help her.
Nobody else had any idea either. The aides were baffled, although I can testify that Sylvie loses things.
It was possible one said, that most were lost during the month that the Mansion residents were evacuated and moved to another facility because flooding. I was confused, but the look on Sylvie’s face and the desperation in her voice was clear enough.
Sylvie is deeply religious, she is a Jehovah’s Witness, and she was planning to attend a religious assembly this Saturday. “Jon,” she pleaded, “I must get hats and canvas bags right away, it is urgent.”
I understood right away that she dreaded going to the assembly without some of her books and research.
Her look said she was in real distress, I felt for her somehow, I knew what she was feeling.
I decided to get Sylvie some hats right away, she was too anxious to wait a couple of days.
I activated my thrift store network and also alerted Maria, who called back right away to tell me she had some hats she could get me for Sylvia. I said I would call some thrift stores.
I met Maria in town and she handed me a bag of hats.
They were great I have several more coming from a local thrift shop. I’ll get them tomorrow. I ordered six tote bags on Amazon, four are coming on Thursday, two on Friday.
If anyone out there wants to send her a canvas tote bag, she would appreciate it: Sylvia, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
She should have them before Saturday, and I got my hands on one to give to her today.
She was very grateful. “Thank you, Jon,” she said in the formal way that she speaks,
“thank you for understanding that this was urgent.”
She put on the hat on the right in the above photo. I had the sense she thought the hate on the left, the one with the flower, might have been a little too loud for a religious person.
I am grateful for requests like this, Sylvie had no one to turn to for something like this. I like to say I fill in the holes that the system doesn’t provide for. Small things, important things, small, inexpensive acts of great kindness. It felt wonderful to see the look on Sylvie’s face when I returned with these hats, it had only been an hour since Sylvie told me about the hats.
On the way, a Mansion staffer stopped me and said. “God Bless you, why do you love these people so much?” I was startled, and blushed and stammered, “I don’t know, I guess I haven’t really thought about it. I do love them.”
Maybe I’ll ask some of the aides why they love the residents so much. I think for me, the answer is that it is selfish, it just makes me feel good.