On Doing Good Things
As my mother grew older, her ability to travel, even to a local event, became difficult. She was confined on some days, to her chair, where she would stand only to give a hug. She ate in her chair. She slept in her chair. She did life in her chair. When my mother went out of the house, it was a production. She could walk a little, but mostly used a wheelchair. She was not feeble-minded, but she simply could not get around the world on her own. There was always a risk of a fall and there was always a sense that she felt like a burden to those around her. Her grace and poise in graceless situations, her humility, and her tolerance for the wild imaginings of a son who had little experience in the things he fancied himself an expert, impress me to this day.
In her younger days, she would travel and help seniors who were taking trips in a group. She cared for children that could not care for themselves. As her mother and father grew older, she cared for them. When she started receiving checks from the Social Security Administration, she asked my sister and me to deposit them into her checking account, and started writing checks in order to give it away. This brought her immense joy. The first checks were usually written to my sister or me. There were also charities we did not know about, along with needs she heard of through the news or her Sunday School class.
My mother did a lot of good things. Her distributing her money had nothing to do with any of those good things. There were days when she felt good and days that she did not, but the “feeling” of goodness did not affect her “doing” of good things. She was one of seven children. Even when she, and one or two of them, were caught up in some disagreement, she asked the others about their welfare. She knew what cousins were doing what good things and always encouraged us to care for them, either in thought or in deed. There was a tenderness for life in my mother, that over the course of our years together, has shaped me in ways still unknown.
Somehow, my mother knew more than most, that she was not the body or form that housed her soul. In some simple way, she understood that her thoughts mattered. We talked over what I perceived to be problems, we spoke about issues that would affect me in the years to come, and we dreamed big dreams for those around us. In exchange for my picking up a drink at Sonic on the way to her house, she would often times give me a hug, a smile, more money than ten drinks would have cost, and though I did not know it at that time, lessons for nearly any situation where I would later find myself.
Here are five of my favorites.
Love their hearts. Whether she encountered a person on the television, the newspaper, or over the phone, she loved them. There are stories told, still today, of the way my mother made someone feel after speaking to her. In casual conversations about any person, without defending an action made by that person, she would speak of them in a way that held their well-being as her primary concern. Of course, she was not a saint. Of course, there were times when this was not the case. But even in conversations “about” people, she was mindful that they too, deserve grace. And that grace began with her in most cases, even if the people that were topics of our conversations would never hear any comments that was made.
Be kind. It did not go unnoticed, that my mother was kind, even when she was given the responsibility of raising me. There were times as a child and teenager that I thought she had lost her ever-loving mind. We did not always agree. Sometimes I was right and sometimes she was wrong, but we never gave each other the impression that we were angry. This was because of her nature. Kindness was her base. Several imperfections can be tolerated when kindness is our base. It is not for me to make a recommendation on how to be kind, but you will know it when you feel it. Just as I have, by trying to replicate my mother’s simple way of caring for a world that was bigger than her own, yet somehow, all her own.
Think of others. My mother did this in several ways. She bought greeting cards in boxes. Not any particular subject of card, but a variety, so that she might send one to a friend whenever the mood struck, and for whatever reason. She made use of her phone. She kept up with the lives of her friends and family. And though it might appear that I was (and still am even after her death) a “momma’s boy”, we spoke every day. Though I did not know this until recently, she kept a journal, or used scrap paper, to write petitions to the Divine for others’ guidance, health, and well being, but most of all, to express gratitude for a person. When she had nothing to do but watch television, sleep, or pray, she spent a good portion of her time, praying, or thinking of others.
Sing. My mother loved to sing. She loved the Gaither Vocal Band series of performances. We sometimes sang silly songs and we often made up words to tunes we had heard before. I was never surprised when I walked in her house and found her alone, singing some hymn from her childhood. I believe she knew them all by heart. She did not sing to make herself feel better and she did not sing to impress anyone with her voice. She sang because there was a song inside her. This song came from another place. It came from her childhood. It came from knowing this life is not all there is. It came from a Source that few of us realize we have access to, every second of every day.
The other half. No matter what meal it was or what treat she might have been enjoying, if I walked into the house unannounced, she always asked if I wanted the rest of what it was, and stated that she just could not eat anymore of it. If she knew I was coming, she would let me know that there was something in the refrigerator that she did not want. Her inclination was to share. She made it known, through these simple acts, that she cared for me. Not that I was starving, not that I was going hungry, but that she enjoyed what she was having and wanted me to do the same. I can still hear her trying to convince me that she “did not eat off of this side”, or she “just picked at it”.
These lessons are not revolutionary. They are not going to bring you every desire you ever dreamed. You may have heard them before. In the same way I have to live the lessons learned from my mother in my own way, I encourage you to find a way to live these lessons in your way, as well. My mother changed the world from a chair, tucked away in the corner of a house, in some small city in Tennessee. While I am sure she was not unique in the way she changed the world, we need more people in the world like her in the world. People who’s default thought pattern is one of goodness. People who use their downtime to surround others with love rather than to criticize. We need people who create change, not for the sake of change, but because they can only offer love and grace.
It is not so much that peace will come. It is that peace has come. It is not so much that we need love. It is that we are love. It is not so much that we are not good. It is that we resist that goodness. And finally, it is not so much that we need to search out the bad things in life and correct them. It is that we need to find the good things in life and multiply them.
People have asked me lately, how many people read this blog. My response is usually “there’s me and someone in my family”. There are more some days than others. I did post a link to Amazon directing viewers to my first book on the blog, but I do not sell other products or links on this blog, so really, traffic is not important to me. I would like to believe that in some way it helps others. I would like to think that in some way, this is one of my efforts to “multiply” the good things in life. If you enjoy it, please share it.
On some occasions, in the early morning, there are words that are stirred in my soul, in a repetitive cadence. This morning, all I hear is, “Nothing but love. Nothing but love. Nothing but love.”