Anything that one is drawn to say about Ginger Andrews is a going to be a mere piece of the picture. Yes, she cleans houses with her sisters for a living. Yes, she has lived on the trailer side of town while doing for the people in the houses on the hill. Yes, she’s published two collection of poems and won the Nicholas Roerich prize for An Honest Answer. Yes, one Amazon write-up about her says she holds the record for the most poems read on Garrison Keillor’s  The Writers Almanac.

All true, but to accept the the sum of those parts as a whole is like totaling a summer season by describing a week of warm days. This is a woman who does for others the way most people brush their teeth—automatically and with a sense that they aren’t living right if they don’t. She’s someone who takes in a seriously ailing nephew because it cheers her to know it cheers him to be at her house. Someone who worries about her husband’s bad back while she has shingles. And who can have the flu and wonder if she’s shirking her duty to be at the church service.

Andrews is just plain good—without being just anything. And in the poem she has sent us, she reminds us that angels turn up unannounced and what looks like hell may be a reminder to be thankful for your own corner of heaven. We give thanks for her in advance of the holiday when we know she, in her great goodness and capacity for gratitude, will be giving enough thanks for all of us.


Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing
some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
-Hebrews 13:2

If the almost perfectly fluted edge
of your homemade pumpkin pie’s crust burns
even though you carefully crinkled aluminum foil around it
as soon as you noticed it was browning way too fast,
for goodness sake don’t cry. Just cut it off.
Swirl Cool Whip around where the crust was.
Nobody really cares. They will eat it.
Life will go on, trust me. The truth is
there’s always someone with a sadder story.

If your father hasn’t had both of his legs amputated,
if he isn’t lying on a pee-stained mattress;
doesn’t have bed sores, a diaper rash, a shriveling liver,
a bad heart and cataracts; if your sister
isn’t burnt black from neck to groin
from radiation, if chemo
doesn’t have her full of phlegm and bile, trust me,
these are your good times.

The trick is keeping busy, cleaning house, cooking, opening
your door to strangers, entertaining all possible angels.

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  • Beverly Schwartz November 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    What a stunning poem! What a stunning philosophy! What an example she is for those of us who sometimes might want to give in to whining.