Humbled by those who have less, much less.

Although it has been 20+ years since I finished high school, The English poetry I learnt, still resonates with me and I can recall phrases and lines to this day. William Wordsworth wrote a sonnet that I shall reproduce here, since it is, of course, only 14 lines.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan
suckled in a creed outworn; (1)
So might I, standing on this pleasant
lea, (2)
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of
Proteus (3) rising from the sea;
Or hear old
Triton (4) blow his wreathed horn.

(1) Brought up in an outdated religion.
(2) Meadow.
(3) Greek sea god capable of taking many shapes.
(4) Another sea god, often depicted as trumpeting on a shell.

For two years our family was very fortunate to have the services of a live-in nanny who began her employment with us a year after our son was born. A rather simple woman, almost illiterate, and not conversant in English, I recall that when our daughter started grade one and began to learn reading and writing, our nanny used some of her free time to study English reading and writing as well. I remarked to myself that a 60 and 6 year old were learning to read and write English for the first time. Our nanny grew very fond of our younger son and loved him as if he were the son she could not bear (her husband divorced her in their youth as they were unable to conceive). Upon recent a visit to her home country, she phoned us with the most unfortunate news that she was not returning to America as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

With no dependents of her own, our nanny worked to save for her and her sisters' retirement. Her sole possessions accompanied her in one suitcase when she went home a few weeks ago. Thus when she called to inform us of her condition, we offered to send her few remaining possessions to her but she refused and suggested we give them away.

As I cleaned her room I found notes she had taken in her English language classes. In the notebook, among other sentences, was written:

“I love children.”

“I love to cook for the children.”

I was moved to tears. Here we live in one of the most sought after areas in the world. Our children attend magnificent schools and not deprived of toys nor clothing nor extra-curricular activities. And a woman who at age 60 is learning English for the first time, writes of her love for children that she could not bear herself. Those of us consumed by the rat-race and materialism that American consumerism thrusts upon us, as Wordsworth wrote, should stop and smell the flowers.....




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Jonathan Gershater

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