Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I thought about it and knew where my mind was leading me......
Six years ago, this coming January, Steven was in an accident. (Yes. Another one.) Ice was on the road and he, and his tractor and wagon he was pulling, slid off the road and rolled over an embankment. He jumped off the tractor, but, upon landing, some portion of it rolled over his leg, breaking it. Unable to move, or stand upright, he waited until someone (my uncle) found him in the ravine, where he lowered a sled to him and two men pulled him out.
He was lucky to be alive.
I remember telling my boss, the funeral director, and his response was "He is the first person to roll a tractor that I know of, and live to tell about it."
He obviously ended up in the hospital, had to have surgery and was immobilized for three months. We had recently paid off our land and was currently living in our trailer hashing out plans to build our house. Because of this, we, thankfully, didn't have a land payment OR a mortgage. This was a blessing because in the instant of his accident, I became the primary bread winner.
Being self-employed, as Steven is, there is no workman's comp. There is no sick leave.
There is nothing.
Due in part to the fact that we lived in an 800 sq ft trailer and had been planning on building, we had money put back and we knew that things would be OK.
Not ideal. But OK.
And life went on.
One day, I remember going to the mailbox. When sorting through the mail, I noticed an envelope with no return address. I opened it up to find $200.00 in cash.
I was immediately flooded with all kinds of emotions.
Embarrassment and gratitude, to name two.
Gratitude that someone thought of us and wanted to help us and embarrassment at the prospect of someone thinking that we couldn't make it on our own.
What is that called? Oh, yeah. Pride.
I won't lie. The $200.00 came in handy. I made decent money, but nothing compared to what we were used to coming in with Steven working. I had budgeted out our monthly bills and knew that we could do it, it would just be tight. We hated to use our savings....however, we could and would.
But..... you know what else happened during those 3 months?
The propane tank never emptied.
There were always diapers for L at the sitter.
The tractor that was flipped was fixed.
The wagon was rebuilt.
Food was brought and left.
Wood for our stove was always cut.
AND ALL OF THIS WAS DONE IN SECRET. Just like the $200.00 in cash.
We never asked it of anyone, but "they" did it anyway.
We didn't HAVE to have help.
We would have made it ourselves.
But people, some that have never revealed themselves, wanted to give to us.
We could have made it without help, but they didn't want us to. They gave freely and, obviously, for no other reason than because they willed it.
Because of the anonymity of their giving, we couldn't call and say "Thanks", we couldn't send them a card and most importantly, we couldn't pay them back.
I remember discussing the situation with friends. I was completely on my knees with humbleness and humility. I wanted to be a good steward of what we had been given.
I was worried because Steven and I had already made arrangements to take L and fly to Florida that Spring prior to his accident. Steven was to be the best man at his friend, Roberts' wedding. Our gift from Robert was lodging during our stay, but we, obviously, would pay for the flight.
I told my parents and friends that we weren't going. I was afraid that someone who had helped us might think that we were not respecting their contribution to us. Think that we were taking advantage of the situation. Of people's generosity.
The anonymous giver of the $200 really stuck in my mind. Not knowing them made me unable to explain to them the circumstances of this trip. Unable to explain that we "didn't ask for your money" and now we feel guilty for receiving it.
However, the response from relatives and friends alike was the same.
Everyone said we needed to go. If not for us, then for Robert.
"People who knew us would know the type of people we were"........ And I made up my mind that I would not keep what I had been given. Everything we received would somehow eventually be passed on to others.
As I recalled this period of my life many things became apparent to me. Instead of seeing this time through my eyes, I began to look at it through the giver's.
I realized that when giving, you experience a joy that can not be obtained any other way. In fact, times when I have given anonymously, I have felt even more joy than when someone felt the need to say "Thank you".
I didn't want a "thank you", I wanted to help. I didn't want to police what they did with what I gave, I just wanted to give. Paying the money and generosity forward have been big blessings in our lives. For me and for Steven.
I will admit I haven't always been this way.
Many times I thought that people waited for their hand out, with their hand out. I have seen first hand people who milk the system. It was, and sometimes still is, hard for me to reconcile the fact that I have to work hard for everything I have and others just take what they can get in the form of what others are willing to give.
However, somewhere along the line there became a shift in my way of thinking. I realized that it isn't my job to qualify or dis-qualify some one's worthiness to receive help.
Shouldn't I know first hand that an outsider looking in would think that we knew how to work it when we arrived home from Florida, relaxed and tan. (OK, I don't tan....but still.) If the people who had helped us had went around telling how they had helped and people had then viewed us through those skeptical eyes, they too, would probably think that we had pulled the wool over every one's eyes and that we had sat with OUR hand out.
But we didn't ask for help.
And people gave anyway.
And THEY didn't ask for thanks.
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. " Matthew 6:3-4
So this post is serving as a reminder to myself that giving, without getting anything in return, is the best type of giving. I hope to strive to continually do more.
"Paying forward" the generosity that was bestowed on us has blessed us far beyond the original 'gifts' we received.
Almost 6 years later, I wish I knew who to thank, not for the money and the 'help' they provided, but for changing me and the way I look at giving to others.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
When I was young this Christmas was celebrated on Christmas Eve. Come rain, snow, sleet or hail, we were there. I remember the snow being so deep that I worried that we wouldn't make it to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Once, we almost didn't.
After being pulled out of the ditch, we carried on our way.
As a child I remember everyone sitting down at a feast. A feast. There really was no other word for it. There was more food than you can imagine.
And we used real dishes. And glasses. And silverware.
This, of course, was torture.
You see, as a child, it was a well known fact that the presents couldn't be opened until the table was cleared and the dishes were washed. It took FOREVER!
The kids would then gather around and one of the older grandkids would play "Santa" and pass out all of the presents.
After the gifts were opened, adults and kids alike, visited and told stories, some of them for the thousandth time. Then when everyone started winding down, it was time to bundle up and head out as everyone went to Midnight Mass. Together.
I can say without hesitation that these times were some of the best of my life.
Our family is a diverse group of people. All the same and all VERY different. Honestly, I am quite sure that if not related, there are several that wouldn't choose to spend their holiday season together.
But they do. And they get along. And during this time they find allegiances and common ground.
And I love this.
My favorite part is drifting from room to room, hearing what everyone was talking about and what stories were being retold for the 33rd time.
Last time I counted there were over 50 people that celebrated with us. Together in a house that is maybe 1000 sq feet.
The house looks the same as it did 33 years ago. Most of the furniture is the same too. Same curtains, same dishes, same cups.
However, now that the group has increased dramatically in size, those cups and dishes stay put in the cabinet and they use plastic dinnerware.
I believe that this is the sole reason that this current generation lacks patience.
This, however, is only a small example of the way that time has a way of changing things.
Grandpa passed away in 1998. He was one of the biggest kids there were. Even in his 80's, he loved Christmas like a child.
Grandma is now 91 years old.
Her mind is all but gone.
An aunt came to live with her several months ago and Grandma keeps forgetting that they live there and believes that they are visiting. Her memory spans only a few moments.
This year as I was preparing food I thought of how I loved this time....and how it made parts of the person I am now.
I knew that with Grandma's health and age, there was a distinct possibility of this being the last Christmas celebrated with Grandma S. Although it pains me to admit it, with the passing of Grandma, will most likely be the passing of this tradition.
Late last night and into this morning, L was stricken by the stomach flu. In fact, I am currently writing this while lying next to her in bed while watching "Eloise-Miss Merry Christmas", while Steven and B are at Grandma's eating and visiting with family.
Although as a mother, there is nowhere else I would rather be than with my child, I think that this serves as a blatant reminder that we should never take for granted that which we hold dear. Just yesterday I was thinking how this year's Christmas celebration at Grandma's might be my last and how it pained me to think of it as even a possibility, and now I am thinking about how LAST year's Christmas celebration might have been.
Who knows, I hope there are many more and I hope Grandma is there with us at them.
However, as a realist I know that time passes and things change.
With each new day comes a strong reminder that I am no longer the child I used to be.......
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
You know the kind...? Moments when you are knocked over by a wave of surrealism.
The other night I had a moment.
My daughter was lying asleep in my arms. The love in my heart was consuming me....but in the recess of my mind, another emotion began slipping up on me.
It felt like a million emotions whirled into one: Anxiety, Disbelief, Love, Adoration, Inadequacy, Depression, Pride, Doubt, Fear.....you name it.
You see, in the moment that I was lying her down in her bed, while she was peacefully asleep for the night, I couldn't help but be overcome by a single thought, "I am a MOTHER!?!"
Now, I realize that you might be thinking that I have had over 6 years to come to terms with this. It isn't anything new. I mean, come on, I have been a mother for some time.
For that matter, I was mothering my sister long before I ever had kids.
However, in that moment I felt like a kid, playing the role of a mom. It happens occasionally. The thoughts consume me....
Who am I? A mother, daughter, sister, wife, child....
How did I get here?
I can't possibly be a 33 year old WOMAN with a husband and two kids!
Where did the years go?
When did I decide that I had what it takes to be a mom?
How did this happen?
(OK, OK, I realize HOW it happened....)
However, the inadequacy that was welling up in me was so overwhelming I had to fight off tears. In that moment I felt crushed by everything I didn't know about being a mom. I didn't have the all the right answers...I didn't do all the right things.... I am unsure about every decision I make.
It was scary.
How could I be in charge of this life? And my children....they never even question my charge. Or me.
I thought of all the questions that had been asked of me over the last six and a half years. Questions as simple as "What's that?" to as big as "Who is God?". My answer, when given, was accepted as, well, the "Gospel".
How could my children place this much faith in me? Can't they see that I am STILL, at 33 years of age, figuring out the answers. Can't they see I am a fraud?
The fear and anxiety followed the tears. How could they not see through me and see everything I lack?
I was shaken. I mean, when I thought about it, really, really thought about it, I realized that the answers I believed, the answers I held onto as the utmost truth, were given to me by my mother.
My mother. A wife at the age of 18 and a mom at the age of 21. My mother. The one I went to with questions big and small and as a child, her answers I never doubted. At such a young age there was definitely no way that she had the CORRECT answers to all the questions I had..... Yet I believed.
Could all that I have built myself on be as insecure as the foundation that I apparently am giving my kids?
Because, seriously, what do I know? Sometimes I stumble through this life I have been given.
All of the peace, contentment and firmness in faith I felt as a child came into question in that moment.
There are very few things that I feel that I can answer without a shadow of a doubt. And almost unfailingly, the ones that truly, ultimately matter don't fall into that category.
I hope that in the end, what will matter, is that I love my children with every fiber of my being. It is in loving my children that 'stumbling through life' becomes transformed into running, jumping and skipping through life. It is with childlike abandon that I love them. Wrong, right or somewhere in between - I always do what I think is the best at that moment. Or at least I try to.
I hope that as their living 'moral compass' I am pointing them in the direction that they are intended to go. I know that more often than not, I practice the "do as I say, not as I do" method of parenting.... Another evidence of my lack of answers, experience and 'know-how'.
Despite all of this, I hope that my children find peace in my love. Maybe it is because they are blind to my individual insecurities that they are able to see my love clearly. If peace is not found in the answers, then at least, at the very least, in the love.
I hope that I can continue to find peace in knowing that my mother did the same and although, as an adult, when I question some of her "answers", I cling to the realization that she did the best she could with the knowledge and experience she had been given. She has surely faced the same kind of doubt and insecurity that sometimes swallows me....but in the end what matters, or at least I pray is what matters, is that she pushed aside her own insecurity and doubts and gave me the best love she could.
Her best. My best.
That is, after all, all any of us can do.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Do you stand up, speak up, and prevent yourself from being pushed over and around? Even if you know that it will change nothing in the long run and cause hurt feelings in the short run?
Do you swallow your words, and pride, and sit back down and carry on?
Anyone and everyone, please tell me...what do you do and what do you think should be done.