I grew up with a mom who put a huge emphasis on philanthropy, justice, and helping people. I’ve told you in past posts of her pulling over to give her umbrella to mothers walking in the rain with their children, paying for strangers’ meals in restaurants, and more. The woman can’t help but help people. What that means for her children is that a) we are now adults with a propensity to help others, b) we’re often times pulled in when our mother has offered to help others, and c) we’re so inclined to help that even if we don’t want to, or have our own things going on, we feel guilty not offering up our time, energy, and talents if it means helping someone else.
I strongly believe that it does in fact take a village to raise children, keep each other moving in the right direction, and to have the kind of community we all hope to have. That said, on this particular Saturday morning, I was NOT feeling it. I wanted nothing to do with anything outside of my own home.
My family owns a business. My mom, step-dad, and brother all work there and I go in each weekend to do a little work and to bring in a little extra cash. I went in early this morning to get my work out of the way and my mom happened to stop in while I was there. This past week she offered…bare with me for this one, it’s a little convoluted…she offered to help a friend, whose daughter’s friend just lost her mother, who left a house packed full of stuff that has had to be sorted and moved so the house can be cleaned out. The woman who passed away left two young adult daughters and an aging mother. My mom offered to help her friend help the girls and the mother clean out the house and she’s been there all week. THIS is the type of woman my mother is.
So she came in this morning to grab a van from our warehouse to load more stuff from the house of the woman who passed. She was lamenting about needing help and that she’d asked my brother but he’d turned her down. I was working as quickly as I could so I could get home, clean the house, start laundry, prepare for Easter, get to the gym, run the dog, and so on, and so on. I certainly didn’t have time to help. She went on her way and I kept working.
It took maybe 37 seconds before I was thinking ‘sh-t. SH-T. Well someone has to help them. Damn it.’ I called her and got her voicemail. I texted her and heard nothing back. Things were looking up. Maybe she wouldn’t see I’d called and texted until much later and then it would be too late. Maybe she’d call and say she didn’t need me after all. Yes! I did offer to help so I could feel good about myself regardless of whether or not she got back to me.
She called shortly thereafter, gave me directions, and I was soon on my way to a community on the other side of the world from my own. I picked up lunch for my mom, her friend, and the mother of the woman whose house we were cleaning out. It was her 79th birthday. And she would be cleaning out her deceased daughter’s house. So so sad.
I was put to work in the garage and was to separate things that could be donated from things that should be trashed. It only took a couple of hours to get through it all. It was easy easy work. It took very little time and very little effort. But as I left and was saying goodbye to my mom and the mother of the woman who’d died I realized just how important my two hours of help was to both of them.
I drove home thinking about how much I hadn’t wanted to veer off the path of my already meticulously planned day to help and how little it actually took to be an enormous help to a family that desperately needed it. It takes so little time to simply be kind and yet I sometimes get so wrapped up with my own little family, and my self-created itinerary, that doing anything else feels like too much.
Tonight I feel better about my day than I ever could have if I’d just come home and gotten my own chores done. Truth is my house might be a disaster, but we won’t be spending one second of time here tomorrow, and I’ll get to spend the day with MY mom. Which is sadly more than I can say for the girls in their mid-twenties who are cleaning out their mother’s house. So heartbreaking.
Sometimes I need to extricate myself from my own life and my own mind to appreciate all I have. Sometimes I need to help others in order to remember that it does take a village and it’s not just an important part of my life, but it’s integral to the kind of person I want to be, to be an active member of that village.
TODAY: What if helping others, and being an active and compassionate member of my community, makes me a better person/wife/mother/daughter? What if there is no village unless we step-up to be that village?