The local Senior Center was hosting its sixth anniversary party recently, and close to eighty people were expected to attend and dine at the event.
I donned apron, and a fabulous hair net, and with others I got to work setting up for the luncheon.
Soon, in the midst of the initial chaos, somebody grey-haired popped their head around the corner of the kitchen.
"Can I help with anything?"
We all said no immediately; we said that it was under control. It wasn't the whole truth, but there was such a clatter and cacophony in the air that we had some difficulty hearing one another speak, and clarity of tasks hadn't quite set in yet- it seemed likely that adding another pair of hands, though willing, to the mix might befuddle us further.
Thus we declined the insistent offer of assistance, certain we'd get everything straightened very soon.
Again, she offered. Anything she could do- putting silverware or napkins on the tables, making a pot of coffee- all we had to do was let her know, and she'd do it.
Once again we had to turn her down on the grounds that it was all arranged and running like clockwork, and all she had to do was sit and enjoy herself.
"All right," she said, her tone uncertain, her voice full of doubt, raising an eyebrow and darting a quick and almost suspicious glance of examination around the kitchen.
The glance said that somewhere in some corner of the kitchen, she had to be needed- something always needed folding or wiping or planning.
Away she went, anyhow, with a shrug, off to be part of the party, having genuinely tried to be involved in its structure.
Who among us would have dared to accept her gracious offer, and drop ourselves in a situation where we had to give duty orders, however polite, to this woman?
Not I, in any case.
I say that based on two rather significant points:
She flew airplanes in World War II.
She shared her 102nd birthday cake with all of us workers.
I positively wouldn't like to be the one to tell such a person what to do.