In this story, Eden’s generous neighbor teaches her a valuable life lesson. The irony of this significant story is unique as the neighbor has no idea of the impact and life shaping this had on Eden.
Growing up both my parents worked. My mom would work later and my dad got out of work around 4 o’clock. So there were a couple of hours in the day after school where I needed someone to watch me and my neighbor, Paula, was the most gracious woman.
She’s taught me a lot–definitely an influence from my childhood almost like a second grandmother and I looked up to her so much and loved her. There was a brief period where she couldn’t get me off the bus for about a week or so; I was probably 7 or 8 I can’t really remember but I was young. I remember my parents said ‘Oh, Paula’s sick’ but didn’t really get into anything. I don’t even know if they knew but she had been in the hospital.
To this day, I still don’t know what illness she had but she got me off the bus when she was feeling better and I hadn’t seen her for about a week or a couple days, which was rare because I had been seeing this woman every day. So it was weird to not see her for a couple of days. She got me off the bus and we were just talking and I said ‘Oh, Paula, where have you been?’. She said she had been in the hospital and I kind of brushed over it and didn’t really know how to react because I was younger and didn’t know the complexity of certain illnesses.
I didn’t ask her how she was doing or if she was feeling any better and it was the first time an adult other than my parents had checked me as a person and kind of put me in a place where I needed to reflect on myself. My parents had done it in more disciplinary ways, but this was deeper than that where it was about self-reflection and how I treat other people. I can remember like it was yesterday… the look on her face, she was so disappointed in me and hurt. She just looked at me and she goes ‘Eden! Are you even going to ask me if I’m doing okay or feeling any better?
My heart sank because this was the woman I looked up to so much and loved and adored and would never wish ill on her ever, but she was right. I didn’t know what to say so I looked at her and said ‘I’m so sorry, Paula. Are you feeling better?’
She looked and told me ‘No, Eden, that’s not the point now that you asked. It’s that you knew that I was sick and you didn’t ask if I was feeling better or if I was doing okay and that hurt me because I thought that you would care’.
She treated me as an adult, which I respected but it sat with me for a very long time and it definitely taught me this life lesson of how to be a compassionate person because I think when you’re a kid, you have this tendency to just naturally think about yourself and you don’t quite know how to express compassion for other people other than just being a nice person and having respect and treating others the way you want to be treated but I think compassion goes deeper than that.
There are always going to be situations in life where you don’t really know what the right thing is to say, and I think about this memory when I go into situations like that when I know someone needs that extra support and compassion. You know, it’s better to say something than nothing at all and it's an important lesson that she taught me. She doesn’t even know that she did this and probably didn’t think much of it after the fact, but it’s just always stuck with me!