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Since being employed by the New York Public Library, I have often been on the receiving end of many queries regarding books to recommend on various topics. One of my friends from junior high school days, Nicole, has exponentially increased her solicitations for my opinion regarding books containing spiritual advice.
The exact nature of the friendship between Nicole and I may be properly understood by listening to the catty bantering contained in the lyrics of "Bosom Buddies" from the Broadway show, Mame. Nicole has enjoyed a scintillating career of romantic conquests and several marriages from which she has emerged economically victorious if not more moral. I, on the other hand, labored honestly and diligently through school for many years in pursuit of my professional aspirations and continue to strive to be a published author. Nicole always projected a condescending attitude towards any woman who would elect to work for a living and retain professional aspirations. Until now, that is. At the age of forty-something, Nicole has reportedly fallen head-over-heels in love with an unmarried pastor.
"This time, I truly am in love!" Nicole gushed at me through the phone lines last week. "Er, um, Nicole, does this pastor know about your er, um, past, um, well—your past?" "Now Muriel, my sinful dalliances are all a matter of the past. My beau is aware of all my carnal transgressions and believes me when I inform him, rather strenuously, that I have been redeemed by the eloquence of his sermons! In fact, just yesterday, I tried to perform an act of Christian charity by volunteering in the clothing center at church." I couldn't resist. "'Tried,'" Nicole?" I heard a long sigh before Nicole continued. "Well, I was in the process of handing a financially destitute parishioner a donated sweater when I noticed the price tag still dangling from the sweater. The sweater was from Lord & Taylor! Obviously, it was heaven-sent just for me! I located a very nice, just the teeniest-bit-moth-eaten sweater for the destitute parishioner, but the woman insisted on taking the Lord & Taylor sweater!" "Some people are so selfish, Nicole," I muttered sarcastically, but my sarcasm was lost on Nicole. "I can always trust you to see through straight to the heart of the matter, Muriel. Those silly church elders sided with the financially challenged parishioner. Humph! How could the downtrodden soul be expected to wear a sweater from Lord & Taylor with the right degree of aplomb? I regard it as rather senseless to compound one tragedy with another by rendering our less financially blessed parishioners fashion disasters! (Sniffs) I'm sure word has reached the ears of my darling Pookie of my efforts, no doubt in a skewed fashion. I have to convince him I am NOT selfish and vain. How will I do that, Muriel?"
"Nicole, would you please hold on for a moment? I think Meals-on-Wheels is knocking on my door instead of at my eighty-seven year old neighbor's door." "Oh, for heaven's sake! At eighty-seven, I'm certain the person has eaten a cold meal before! Another one isn't likely to cause your neighbor's death! We have to focus on my problem!" When I returned to the line after directing the Meals-in-Wheels staff member to the appropriate door, I was afraid I'd be coerced to contend with a sulking Nicole. However, Nicole didn't seem to notice that I had ever left the line, as she was continuing unabated in her monologue as to how she would convince her latest victim, er, um, object of romantic interest that she is not purportedly selfish. I managed to interject when Nicole finally paused for a bit of oxygen.
"Well, Nicole, January is National Donate Blood Month. I'm heading to the blood bank in a couple of hours—want to join me?" I could almost see Nicole beaming over the telephone line as she fairly well shrieked, "Muriel, darling, what a splendid idea! I knew I could count on you! But why the two hour wait? Let's go now, now!" "Nicole, I have to eat lunch and walk my dog." "Eat? Walk your dog? Can't the little furry beast wait..." "Nicole..." I began sternly. "Oh, all right. I know how devoted you are to that dog. I for one will never forget the melee that ensured when you asked me to hold his leash while you ran into a store and somehow, the furry little creature escaped." "Nicole, he didn't 'escape!' Witnesses stated you screamed, 'Oh my, I've chipped a nail on his leash!' and dropped my dog's leash! Thankfully he ran to the nearest food cart and was apprehended as he was attempting to take a doughnut!" "Oh, all right. Besides, my beau actually likes animals. Say, maybe I can borrow your furry little beast one day to demonstrate to my love that I too love animals!" "Not a chance, Nicole. Meet you at the blood bank at noon."
I sharply disconnected the line, still fuming at the memory of my chasing my beloved dog around a vending cart. Thank goodness for his incorrigible sweet tooth... At noon, I arrived at the blood bank and noticed a woman standing near the entrance. She was wearing dark, oversized sunglasses, clutching a gallon of orange juice and a pillow. I attempted to walk around the woman until I realized it was my friend, Nicole. "Nicole, why are you donning sunglasses on such a bleak, dreary day? And what's with the orange juice? I thought citrus gave you hives!" "Shhh! After I donate blood, I may have dark circles under my eyes! As for the juice, why, I figured I'd donate a gallon in case the blood bank depleted their supply. And, of course, I only lay my head on my own pillow.' I bit back the retort of 'Since when?' and instead stated, "Nicole, you wouldn't have dark circles under your eyes just from donating blood!" "No? Then yours must be ascribed to solely age. Poor Muriel." I gritted my teeth and said, "Nice of you to bring the juice."
We entered inside and were handed a clipboard with a form to complete. I proceeded to complete the relevant boxes until I heard Nicole emanate a hiss, throw down the clipboard and stalk up to the nearest blood donation staff member. "Why are these questions so intensely personal?" The staff member likely attributed Nicole's hissy fit to a bad case of nerves and inquired diplomatically, "Ma'am, which question do you object to?" Grabbing the questionate form, Nicole pointed to the question that inquires if a prospective blood donor is at least seventeen years of age. "Nicole, for God's sake, we're in our forties! Do you really hope to pass for someone under seventeen years of age?" Giving me a withering look, Nicole snarled at me, "Speak for yourself!" I reminded Nicole of her alleged altruistic reasons for being present in the blood bank. My well-chosen words exerted the effect of simmering Nicole's expression of indignant ire. She sat down and commenced filling out the form.
Nicole was interviewed first by the blood bank staff member. I thought all was going well until I heard Nicole shriek, "A needle? You intend to poke me with a needle?!?" I ran to Nicole's side and hastened to assure her that the blood bank staff are quite the experts at locating accessible veins and that the process was really not too uncomfortable, and the feeling of the prick of a needle was more than compensated for by the knowledge that one was providing literally life-saving blood to another person. I cited the fact that premature infants, cancer patients, burn victims, trauma patients and numerous others who are medically frail are snatched from the jaws of death by blood donors such as Nicole (cannot afford to mince words with the quintessential narcissist). Nicole was not mollified by my words, however. She clutched her designer handbag, her pillow and the gallon of juice and was nearly out of her chair when she suddenly engaged in one of her pretend episodes of syncope (managing quite adroitly and with astonishing rapidity to place her pillow under her head first). Nicole has fainted her way through algebra, reportedly "bad" dates and even interviews by the IRS. I turned my head towards the door and noticed a man wearing a clerical collar heading straight for Nicole. "Darling, I received your call! What happened?"
With thespian talent that would have caused Helen Hayes to turn chartreuse, Nicole murmured, "Oh, darling, I didn't mean for you to tear yourself away from your pastoral obligations so quickly!" "But honey, you stated that it was urgent..." Nicole, waving a perfectly manicured hand dismissively, said, "I merely wanted you to bless the blood bank. I had no idea so many suffered so! I fainted after my good friend, Muriel, informed me of the terribly ill people who suffer so without blood! It's all too horrible! Oh, my, you two haven't met, have you? Darling Tim, please meet my old, old, old friend, Muriel." After shaking hands with the hapless pastor, I hissed at Nicole, "You'd have to be 'old, old, old' too to know me!" Nicole whispered, "Muriel, I said you were old, not that I knew you for ages!" The blood bank still received two pints of blood that day—one from me and one from the pastor (Nicole was deemed too "delicate" to donate blood. Personally, I thought I saw the blood bank worker scrawl "drama queen" across Nicole's form).
Nicole continues to assiduously skim through various books aimed at inspiring one to be a better person when she's not in a spa. Please find listed below some books that readers may find uplifting. Because of a lack of space, not every religion or spiritual belief is reflected in the items listed below. No offense is intended by omission. Additionally, readers who are interested in applying to donate egregiously needed blood may click on one of the below enumerated blood bank links for further information regarding the blood donation process.
Daily Readings from Become a Better You by Joel Osteen
8 Steps to Create the Life You Want by Dr. Creflo A. Dollar
Fingerprints of God by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
A Code of Jewish Ethics, Vol. 2: Love your Neighbor as Yourself by Joseph Telushkin
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Overcoming Life's Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner
Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita by Ram Dass
Note to Self, edited by Andrea Buchanan
Morning Sunshine! By Robin Meade
How to Expand Love by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The Qur'an in 99 Questions by Muhittin Akgui
Joshua by Fr. Joseph Girzone
Fearless: Imagine your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado
Blessings from the Other Side by Sylvia Browne
Self Matters by Dr. Phil McGraw
Conversations with My Dog by Zig Ziglar
O's Guide to Life: the Best of O, the Oprah Magazaine
Eat the Cookie, buy the shoes: giving yourself permission to lighten up by Joyce Meyer
Final Beginnings by John Edward
God in The Marketplace by Henry & Richard Blackaby
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Love Your Life: Living Happy. Healthy and Whole by Victoria Osteen
Walking In Your Own Shoes: Discover God's Direction for Your Life by Robert A. Schuller
The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
The Busy Family's Giide to Volunteering by Jenny Friedman
The Good Heart Book: A Guide to Volunteering by David E. Driver
Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa
It Will All Come Out in the Fire (DVD) by T.D. Jakes
New York Blood Center
Mount Sinai Hospital
American Red Cross (Check out FREE Dunkin Donuts Coffee limited time offer for donors!)
Staten Island University Hospital