Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: Crisis underscores good fortune

There is a lot going on in the world right now, but I confess that I have been frequently and somewhat blissfully unaware of most of it. At the moment, I am suffering from some health issues that prevent me from spending too much time on the computer and even from reading — it hurts my head if I do it for too long. That means I can’t really read the news.
Although I would not wish this pain on anyone, I have to say that hearing and reading about the constant national and global catastrophes that have been hammering down since November of 2016 are something that I have not missed. I have been forced to take several months away from the chaos, and it’s made me realize that a break from it all has been really healthy. For one thing, it has compelled me to really, really appreciate what is right around me.
I’ve always appreciated and loved my people and I always will. It did not take a medical crisis for me to get there. My people are simply the best. They have made this community my home for years, even though I am not originally from here. They’ve made it the place that I have wanted to be any time that I did not have to be anywhere else for a long time now. My chosen family here shows up. They are the people who make sure that I am never alone in the hospital, who make sure I have food, who get me from place to place, and who stay in my house to make sure I am safe. Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude to them.
But this condition has also taught me much more about our broader lovely community — things that I would have never really known about if I did not need the services that I have needed. People I hardly know have offered to help or bring food or drive me places. There are some real gems here, people who care deeply about others.
One of the things I have needed on a regular basis, for instance, is hydration, and it turns out that our local hospital has an infusion clinic. The staff there is phenomenal. Alyson, Stephanie, and Justine who run the place do so with incredible care and kindness.
I hate needles and every time I go there knowing full well that someone will stick me at least once, but possibly more than once given the decreasing tolerance of my veins, I still find that I am able to bear it because of the comforting and caring environment that they have created for their patients. If any medical environment could possibly be heavenly, this is the place and it is worth thanking these incredible kind people publicly for the work that they do.
The same goes for my wonderful primary care doctor in Vergennes. My condition is complicated, but she has made sure to do everything she can to help get me to the people who can help and keep me as comfortable and supported as possible in the process. I could add a wonderful ER nurse at Porter to this list who made a number of terrible days much better because she went above and beyond when I made a couple of trips to the emergency room. The doctor who runs the ER at Porter is also quite magnificent. Together, these people have proven that folks in the medical profession can be incredible and to them, I am grateful.
My months-long experience has not all been rosy. It has taken months to get in to see people who can actually help, and it should not have to be that way. I have encountered downright mean, uncompassionate people who have treated my body terribly and disregarded my pain. I have felt dehumanized and awful, but interestingly those experiences have mostly been outside of Addison County.
We live in a good place with good people. Sometimes it can feel small, sure. Sometimes it might feel quiet or boring, but in the end, I think those things may hold us accountable to each other in ways that ultimately serve us well.
So today, in spite of everything awful both in the wider world and in my own body, I write from a place of gratitude for our small but wonderful community and I encourage all of you to not wait for some crisis to reflect on the good that surrounds us.
Mary E. Mendoza is an assistant professor of history at the University of Vermont and the David and Dana Dornsife Fellow for Historical Work in the American West at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. She lives in Weybridge.

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