Wednesday, March 9, 2011
In Doing Small Things, We Do The Impossible.
I don’t have memories of my Dad avoiding the eyes of a needy person and walking on down the street. I have several very specific memories of him stopping, talking, giving cash, or going into the nearest fast-food place and getting someone a good meal. I don’t have memories of my Dad driving past a broken down car, muttering that if we only had time or if he were more capable he would stop. I have one particular memory of him turning around and going back in heavy falling snow on our drive to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house. How I wanted to get there to the warm meal and the company of my cousins! But there was a car broken down on the side of the road, and that family needed help getting to their Thanksgiving. I bet they still remember my Dad. I have memories of people asking for what I thought was too much. I have memories of Dad taking pause, not verbalizing what I could see… that it was not an easy thing for him to lend an expensive four-wheeler or high quality piece of hunting equipment, or give of his free time. But what finally did get verbalized was that things were just things and that people were more important. I don’t have specific memories of Dad helping someone daily. I know he did, but he was not the sort that needed people to know it. I don’t know how often I’ve been that kind of self-less. When have I done a good turn without telling a living soul? It’s the most disciplined kind of service, something my Dad worked at. There’s a thing that’s harder than all of that. Accepting the service of others. My Dad had occasion to learn this lesson in his life as well. Because of he and Mom’s good nature, like people were drawn to them. People whose lives they had touched were eager to give back to them and then some. So much has been given to my family that I could spend every blog post writing about it, but I don’t have the words or the tears to sustain it! It takes an unspeakable humility to both give and receive. People are taking care of my Mom. How can I tell you what that means to me? It would take more than words, even words of my own invention! When the funeral ended, the expected happened. There were no more responsibilities to keep busy with and the sadness started to settle heavy on our chests. My brother, Justin, got out the sympathy cards. They were the cure. There were cards from the Power Plant where Dad worked. They had signatures and cash. Some were ones and some were fifties and the men and women who put that money in didn’t need to specify how much they had each given individually. There were words about Dad, about the kind of man he was, and about how people wanted to be the way he was, that they would do good in memory of him. It’s hard to know what would help someone when they lose someone they love, and I’ve come to find that honoring their loved one’s memory in that way is possibly the very best thing anyone can do. I want to tell you that we felt Dad there in that kitchen with us that night. On a lighter note, another unexpected, charitably beneficial thing people can do is kiss pigs. That’s what they decided to do at the school where my Mom works. They only knew that they wanted to do something for Mom. I believe they felt that they simply HAD to do something for her, and I believe they came up with the best plan that has seen any junior high school, maybe ever. Faculty and students stuffed a piggy bank full of money and when they had not only reached, but doubled their fundraising goal- they held an assembly and the students got to watch teachers and other staff, kiss a live pig for Mom. They got to watch her muster up her courage and thank them through tears. She told them that Dad’s favorite song is “One” by U2 and that it says, “We get to carry each other.” She thanked them for helping to carry her, and she told the kissers of the pig that she would be willing to kiss a pig for them as well, should the occasion ever arise. The world is most often a difficult place. The televised news is painful. This homemaker’s daily life is drudgery. At times I lose my temper. At times I lose myself. Every day I call to check on my Mom, praying that things are getting a little easier for her. We know hardships. But I know that somewhere in the world right now, someone is giving a meal to a homeless man. Someone is stopping in the snow to help a family get back on their path. Someone is writing a kind word, is slipping money into an envelope. Someone is kissing a pig. And we are not alone.