Compassion at the Front Door

by Sherry Riter in Attitude,Lessons of Life,Self-Development  


Walking quickly towards the front door in the sweltering Texas sun, I could still feel the coolness on my skin from the air conditioning blasting on me in the car for the last five minutes. I always implemented “operation a/c frostbite” before stepping out of the car and into the unbearable heat.

I pressed the doorbell, put a sincere smile on my face and waited for someone to answer. The front porch was neat as a pin with bees enjoying the massive flowers blooming in huge pots. I began making a mental grocery list and calculated how much time I needed to finish a few visits before the end of the week. Cautiously, the freshly painted door opened and Margaret stepped outside with checkbook in hand, closing the entrance behind herself.

Embracing with heartfelt friendship, we greeted one another.

“It is so nice to see you. How have you been?” I asked as I handed her the Avon bag full of goodies.

“Not so good. Thank you so much for coming at the last minute,” she said a little weak spirited.

“Is there anything I can do for you? Are the kids okay? How about your husband?”

“The kids and Ron are fantastic. My bipolar medication is not working and life feels so impossible. I just want to die so that Ron can find a better wife and mother for our children,” she said and stood staring directly in my eyes unwavering.

I could feel the sweat begin to drip down my spine. The already stifling heat almost felt unbearable after her revelation. If anyone was serious about suicide, it was Margaret. Life had not been kind. Abused as a child, marrying and subsequently divorcing an abusive man, and eventually being diagnosed as bipolar during a stay at a psychiatric facility had all left massive emotional scars on her heart.

My mind raced as I asked, “Have you told anyone how you are feeling?”

Marrying Ron and having three beautiful children should have been the happy ending to her story, but Margaret had a hard time staying ahead of her bipolar symptoms. Depression constantly plagued her.

“Yes,” she said and then continued with her explanation. “I told Ron this morning and he cried as he left for work begging me the whole way to the car not to do anything to wreck our lives together. He asked me to call you to deliver my order because he hid my car this morning so that I couldn’t drive. Honestly, he didn’t want me to start it in the garage and sit in it in order to follow through with my wish.”

A vision of Margaret killing herself in the garage caused a puking feeling in my stomach. I felt so sorry for this little family. Ron was a big, burly man and loved Margaret and the children. He had a hard time coping with this wife’s manic tendencies, but he was a loyal husband and tried to cater to her whims no matter how unreasonable.

The sun’s heat engulfed us as we stood for an hour on her porch talking. I just couldn’t walk away and leave her so alone. Unwilling to lose her sounding board, she talked on and on about everything. Margaret had a therapist appointment the next day and after we had talked at such length, she felt she could hold on until then.

With my clothes soaking wet from sweat and my heart heavy with compassion, an hour and a half after arriving at the house, I was getting back into my car. As the keys turned and the engine came to life, the air conditioning once again began to blow albeit hot air. I opened the back windows and coasted backwards out of the driveway. Looking back at the now empty porch, I pulled away from the house and headed home.

A few weeks later, Ron called to thank me. “I don’t know what you said to Margaret during your visit, but she has a renewed vision of her role in our family. I just wanted to thank you for being more than an Avon lady. I knew you would visit her if she called and it brought a huge relief while I worked. As you know, she doesn’t have many friends because they take everything she says so personal when she’s in one of those moods, but you always seem to let it roll off your back and you listen.”

Now I felt guilty. When Margaret called weeks ago, I had silently complained about having to deliver anything to anyone after hanging up the phone. I had even vowed to only stay with her ten minutes no matter what happened, but I hadn’t followed through with the plan. I was so thankful I had ignored my selfish inclinations.

After that experience, I vowed to myself that I would not complain about helping other people. Obviously, being an Avon representative was meant to provide more than an income while staying home to raise my daughter. I was also in service to other people who often kept me at their homes for several hours unloading one problem after the next. Many times I was told things that these women had never told another human being. I felt a keen sense of responsibility to fulfill my role of compassionate service which is one of the instigators that led to my consumption of a vast number of self-help and psychology books. I also had a prepared list of psychiatrists and psychologist that I could pass on when the occasion warranted.

That experience only heightened my awareness of the delicate balance we all have between life and death. Nothing, however, could have ever prepared me for the recent experience with my daughter. So many of you have written wanting to know more details of my daughter’s brush with death. Rather than putting the same story in each email, over the next couple days I will begin posting the most gut wrenching experience of my life.

The Redhead Riter

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lemondrop Marie June 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

Wow, how inspiring this is for us to try to "be there" for anyone we can when we see a need.
And amen to the Texas heat needing that bllllllllllllast of ac.
Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge


2 FreshCutFabrics June 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

What a great story Red! I dint know you were an Avon lady too. and I am looking forward to your story about your sweet daughter. I hope she continues to improve daily.


3 Meagan Frank June 22, 2010 at 1:15 am

Amazing! What a blessing you were for Margaret. A great reminder that our jobs are more than just our jobs!


4 Kristen Love June 22, 2010 at 1:28 am

Wow. What a blessing you are. Just imagine all the people you touch that you don't find out about?


5 bluecottonmemory June 22, 2010 at 1:49 am

Your mission field are the people you come in contact daily. Unlike missionaries in China or Africa, you are one of the unsung missionaries. You don't get called up in front of the church and praised for doing what you do. But you are just as much a missionary! Be blessed dear friend!


6 Teresa Wilkinson 1984 June 22, 2010 at 2:02 am

I always knew you were special.


7 Hannah June 22, 2010 at 2:49 am

Wow, seriously inspiring! It is funny how God puts us in the right place at the right time sometimes. You never really know when you might make a huge impact on someone's life. I am so happy you were there for that lady! How lucky is she to have you in her life!


8 Jen June 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm

It's a great thing that you did stay and listened to her. It sure changed her way of thinking. I think it's important to listen and be a good friend.


9 knickknacks June 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I believe that every little action that we take will make a difference (however small) to someone else's life. That was a really wonderful thing you did, Red.


10 Gretchen Seefried June 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm

My friend and co-worker Holli told me bout your blog. We were so moved by this post. Thank you for sharing.


11 Juliana Matthews June 23, 2010 at 7:36 am

So often, just having someone to listen, someone who doesn't have an emotional attachment, is all that's needed. When we are in terrible emotional pain and burdened by guilt, we try to pretend to our families that we are okay… having a detatched person who gives us time, and who listens, can be just the safety valve we need. Reckon you were Margaret's safety valve that day.
Blessings and smiles.


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