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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

302: How A Cabinet Hinge Opened A Heavy Door A story by Jeanine Hillman


The Pandemic year 2020 altered my world in ways I have yet to discover. To my surprise, there are a number of positive side effects. For one, I am secretly relieved to find that, as an introvert, I can be alone in my house and no one thinks it odd. And my computer skills have vastly improved , that being the main method of connecting with the world.

My weekly Meditation group, Julian’s Cell, is via Zoom. From there, I joined a sub-group with eight others as a response to the rise of the Black Lives Matter marches. We have been reading books, listening to Podcasts, and discussing our reactions, as a means to educate ourselves about the Black experience in American society. And we are examining in ourselves our personal reactions to such terms as White Fragility, Unconscious Bias, White Women’s Tears, and White Privilege. And, we have been considering “What Should We Do” with this awareness of our complicity and therefore our responsibility to be part of the solution.

This has led me to face those parts in myself that I had previously either never thought of, or rationalized away, became defensive about, never really listened to and so never really “heard”. This has led me to consider What is mine to do, given that I am an 84 year old white woman with a fair amount of privilege and enough past life challenges to be compassionate and non-judgmental in most situations, but still in the midst of a social lockdown.

I live in an older middle class development and am one of the original families on this street. We have watched each other’s children grow up and return with visiting grandchildren. Among the newcomers to our neighborhood, some Four years ago, is a sole black family with three children, who I have occasionally seen either watering flowers or getting into their car. Last month while walking my dog, I saw a delivery truck in front of their house delivering bathroom fixtures, and it reminded me that I should probably consider remodeling my own bathroom.

The following day, there appeared on the lawn the old cabinet and wash basin with a “Free” sign. I doubted anyone would want the old cabinet, but those are, after all, the same cabinets that I have, and it occurred to me that I could possibly salvage the hinges to replace some of my own. I have had to replace some hinges and they are not easy to find.

I set off down the street, screwdriver in hand, knocked on the door, introduced myself as a neighbor, told my story, and asked about the hinges. The man. Jeffrey, could not have been more gracious. He had a ready smile and seemed delighted that I had asked. He refused my offer of payment, took the screwdriver from my hand, and we laughed and chatted as he dismantled the needed hinges. So there we were on the front lawn, in conversation about his remodel plans, his kids Covid schooling problems, and putting up Christmas lights. “You’ve already met my children at Hallowe’en” he told me, and indeed I did remember their costumes getting their treats a year earlier. Jeffrey didn’t invite me in, and I didn’t ask them to come visit, but a few days later I made cookies as a “thank you” , and I met his wife when I dropped them off.

So, this is a start, I thought, a connection, a shared interaction, a favor asked, granted and reciprocated. as it turned out, What is Mine to Do, was found right in my own backyard.

Later, in talking about this with Victoria, she encouraged me to think deeper about Hinges, and it’s place in this interaction. I used the internet to look into “hinges”, and was surprised at the types and diversity. But they all have in common being a flexible device that is fairly complex in the interlocking mechanism that enables a door to easily open and close.

The parts must work together for proper functioning. And, there are other meanings for the word Hinge ... it can mean a turning point, as in “Everything hinges on such and such happening” ... or as we watched in disbelief last week, what happens when a mob becomes Un-hinged, or indeed what an Un-hinged President can foment.

I even looked again at the hinges I had salvaged, and now see that one of them has a cracked part from the wear and tear of so many years of use. I can relate to that, I think, my own internal hinges are showing wear, my step is no longer as springy as last year, but there’s a lot of life left. And besides, these hinges have already accomplished their purpose. They have opened a door, begun a conversation and a connection, about ordinary things between neighbors. And that’s a perfect start.

A story of a loving heart from Jeanine Hillman

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