He studies birds. He knows where wood ducks winter. He builds houses for bluebirds and gathers roadkill to feed the crows. He can imitate cardinals and robins, six species of sparrow and ten of warbler. Chickadees, titmouses, nuthatches, goldfinches all eat out of his hand. There are no luxuries in his small house. He has no companion, not even a cat. When he was young, he was a professor of zoology. Now, he says, he professes nothing but ignorance and love.
She is a potter. She lives on a dead-end street in a northern town. Her studio is a shed attached to her bungalow. She was once married to a man who left her for another. Every morning, after her breakfast, she goes into the studio to work. She sings blessings into the clay so that the people who use the cups and bowls will feel happier and stronger. After lunch, she walks into town for a cup of coffee, which she drinks at a table outdoors if the weather is nice. People stop and talk to her, and she listens. In the afternoons, she walks and reads and in the summer, she tends her small garden. She sells her pottery at a local craft guild and online, and because her cups and bowls are beautiful and useful, she makes enough money to get by. She has two rescued rabbits who have the run of the house.
He is a chaplain in a large institutional nursing home. Most of the patients live in double rooms with very few of their own possessions. Many have dementia, and many have no visitors. He makes the rounds six days a week, visiting each resident in rotation, and responding to emergencies and requests as they arise. Because there are not quite enough staff members, he knows how to change clothing and bedding and manage wheelchairs. He has a pleasant singing voice, and several of the residents enjoy singing hymns with him. On Sunday mornings, he conducts a simple worship service with music led by volunteers from local churches. Nearly every week, he conducts a funeral. He lives with his wife, who works in a yarn shop, in a modest house near the nursing home. They have two children: a daughter who is a pre-med student at the state university, and a son in high school who hopes to be a professional guitarist. Both of the children are easy-going, and they often attend the Sunday worship at the nursing home and talk with the residents there.
She stays at home with her two young children and also cares for two neighbor children whose mothers work part-time. Her husband is trying to establish a car-detailing business, and she also does his bookkeeping. She has been a social worker, and because she wants to stay in touch with the profession, she is on the board of directors of a local service agency. She also volunteers at their food pantry on Saturday mornings, when she can leave the children with one of the neighbors. Food pantry clients like her very much because she is fair and clear, and “treats them like real people.” Sometimes her fellow board members are annoyed with her for the same reasons.
When she was a little girl, she always wore snow pants under her dress. The other children at school laughed at her because her shoes had cardboard soles and because she smelled bad. Now she is a buyer for a big New York department store. At work, she dresses like an ad in the New York Times, but at home she doesn’t. She lives in a one-bedroom walk-up in Turtle Bay instead of Uptown. Wherever she goes—Paris, Rome, London—she carries a pocketful of the local cash, which she gives to any beggar who asks. She has established a shoe and clothing fund back in the town where she came from, so that all the children can have decent shoes and something nice to wear. She also serves as a mentor for children who have been abused.
She has a severe brain disorder and takes medicine, but she still suffers. She lives in a small apartment in the city, and many people in the neighborhood know her and greet her when they see her on the street. For many years, she has cared passionately about endangered chimpanzees, and she sends letters to local newspapers encouraging people to drink only shade grown coffee and to eat less beef. She has four godchildren, and out of her disability income, she buys them books for their birthdays. She sits in meditation for several hours each day, and keeps a prayer list of more than one hundred names.