I Cry at Car Washes

Bowie and I
And baby goats.

Driving by the local Les Schwab tire and automotive center last Sunday, I saw three teenage girls waving ‘Car Wash’ signs at passing traffic. On my way back from errands, I drove into Les Schwab, the girls gave me the thumbs up, and I waited behind a bright red Toyota Forerunner. Mercy, they were thorough: a man with a long-handled brush, two girls with hoses, and two more girls with rags and sponges. Having just completed an 850 mile drive to eastern Oregon to visit my daughter and son-in-law, their four dogs, mama goat, and two newborn baby goats, a car wash was definitely in order.

I was surprised by my eyes tearing up watching the car-washers bustle around the Toyota in front of me. A young lady walked up to my window.
“What are we raising money for?” I asked her.
“4-H,” she smiled broadly, and thanked me as I handed her my six dollars of cash. Young people doing something for good makes me cry? People doing things in community makes me cry? Me getting to peripherally help as I donated money to the cause makes me cry? Apparently so.

Oh yeah, forty years ago, I cried at the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethons. He did those until 2010 when he was 84. He and all those celebrities giving their time for free to raise money to help people.

This Les Schwab center frequently donates their space, and precious water, to help groups raise money for what they believe in. Les Schwab himself and his wife donated money to a local hospital to build a wing in honor of their son. A native Oregonian, Les was born in Bend and died in Prineville eleven years ago. A town I had not heard of until my young ones drove through there in June, looking for a place in Oregon to settle down with all their critters and call their own.

A place to call our own. A place where we belong. My daughter, Dorothy, is so happy in their new home: a town with a population of two hundred and fifty-three, with no grocery store, no police department, no laundry-mat, yet a strong sense of community. By their second day there, the mayor had stopped by to meet my young ones, as well as many of the townspeople; one bringing a loaf of fresh-baked blueberry lemon bread. Really? Yup.

“This is our place, Mom. We belong here,” Dorothy said to me several times. There was a doe on the doorstep of the motel when I went back to it Tuesday night. A guy driving by in an old pick-up truck stuck his arm out the window and waved at me as he saw me sitting on the edge of the kiddoes’ property, writing in my journal. Did I wave back? Sure did!

Idyllic? In many respects. Perfectly harmonious? No, people do people things. A woman was arrested for assaulting her boyfriend a few nights before I got there. The neighbors asked how they could help. Community.

The worldwide community. Jerry Lewis also worked with UNICEF, in the Civil Rights Movement, and ‘Jerry’s House’, a home for traumatized children in Melbourne, Australia.

“Leave the world better than you found it,” was a much repeated value in my home growing up, as was, “Give more than you take.” I certainly took those caveats to heart, working in a social services career for decades. Also tending to be an ‘over-responsible’ person, I have had trouble seeing what is my part and what is not. If I see something that needs to be done, and it is not being done, and since it must be done, then I better do it. Right? Good question. I certainly have a history of jumping in to help people, situations, and organizations. That is a juicy topic for another time.

Yet when people do things simply to help others, to be part of something, it shapes a community – be it a telethon, a hospital donation, a go-fund-me campaign, a neighborhood watch, or a meet-up group. When I see those things happen, it often moves me as I see the humanity in people, something that seems lacking in observing the world these days, whether local or international.

Or when I hold baby goats. The gentleness of them of them fills my heart. I totally enjoy kittens and puppies and baby rabbits. Yet there is something so tender about the baby goats which connected me to my own life, their new innocent lives, and the wonder of life itself.

Crying… and life. They’ve gone hand in hand many times for me as I look for where I belong.