You know the saying, when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.
Well, what if life puts a person in front of you that at first glance, you do not see any way possible of having any sort of relationship with? Do you just turn away? Do you run away?
Well, let me tell you about a lady named Penny.
It would have been about 15 years ago or more, I was managing a warehouse for a large distribution company. We used a temporary service to bring in new employees, we would call the service up, tell them what the job was that we needed somebody to fill, and they would send them over to us to start working.
We needed someone to come and individually pack hard drives for us for a large customer, they had to scan the serial numbers, make a label, pack the drive in a special vendor box, apply the label and then stack them onto pallets. It was a job that no one liked doing as it was very tedious, boring and yet demanding at the same time.
They sent Penny. Now please believe me when I say that I am not trying to be mean or judgmental here, but when I first met her I was not really sure if she was a she. The years had not been kind to Penny and she was actually much younger, I found out later, than she looked. Her hair was thinning to the point of almost balding, her face was doughy, with a toothless smile.
She showed up at work, I got a call from security to come get her to take her to where she was going to be working, and as I walked toward the front door I passed several employees that were laughing and whispering to each other while looking right at me. I stopped one of them and asked what was going on and he just said “Wait until you see what they sent you this time!” and burst out in laughter as he walked away. They had already condemned her to fail miserably, and I am ashamed to say that after I got my first glimpse of her, I felt the same way. But we needed someone to do this thankless job, so what the hell, give her a shot.
I was immediately bombarded with questions about when I was going to replace her, but no one could give me a reason why. They just didn’t like the way she looked. But she could work. She was easily out performing guys half her age at doing the same job, right from the start. She came in, arranged her area, turned on her little radio and got to work. Didn’t bother anyone, just worked.
Years went by and Penny was still happy to be in her little corner of the warehouse, packing hard drives. Day in, day out. By then she had become friends with most everyone that worked there and was accepted by everyone as “one of them”. She used to tell me about her family and we would argue about which one of us was the bigger Cubs fan. She had personal issues like everyone does, and she confided some of them to me. I tried to help her the best I can, mostly she just needed someone to listen. Every year she would buy me a Christmas present and give it to me, expecting and wanting nothing in return.
I finally asked her why she did that and her response was that I gave her a chance when most people just took one look at her and assumed that she was useless, that she had let herself go to where she looked like she was homeless, when actually she lived in a house with her brother and took care of him and their mother. I admitted to her that those thoughts had gone through my mind as well when I first saw her and she just smiled that toothless grin, punched me in the arm and said “I know”
I lost track of Penny after I transferred to another warehouse. I hope she is OK. I hope that life has been kinder to her than it was before we met. And I hope that no matter how much she thinks that I helped her, it was me that got the most out of meeting her. It showed me that people just need a chance sometime to shine. People just need a pat on the back or a kind word to feel good about themselves. Showing people respect is the best thing that I can do for someone. Not everyone returns it, but that is their prerogative I guess.
Life gave me Penny, and I made a friend.