Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You and ME against the World

"Too often we underestimate the power of
a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around. "
Leo Buscaglia



I was awakened this morning by the phone ringing. It was late enough that I should have already been up an moving, yet still early enough to start my day with that shot of adrenaline that moves one from a deep sleep to immediate action in the blink of an eye. Phone calls in the wee morning hours almost always mean an emergency of some sort. Either that or someone calling from another time zone who forgets to add or subtract the hours as the case may be. Or, now that I've learned about "drunk dialing" from AntiJen (http://antijen.blogspot.com), I guess the nerve shattering jingle need not be an emergency, just the musing of someone under the influence of too much Apple Jacks and Sauvingnon Blanc. My all time best experience with an early morning phone call was when Wendy phoned to say she'd just hit a $65,000 jackpot in LasVegas.

I know what you are thinking. Yeh, right! That's what I thought at the time and regret that it took several excited squeals on her end of the line, and more than a few angry, "I'm not in the mood for jokes, it's 3 o'clock in the morning,this isn't funny" comments from me before I realized she was indeed a winner. In my book Wendy has always been (will always be) a winner, but in this case she broke the three generation Ellington Las Vegas losing streak. It might take several generations before it ever happens again; if, in fact, it ever does.

Whoo-boy, I got way off track! Back to this morning's call ....

A friend of my sister called for some information on attending a funeral. I woke up fast enough to track down the obituary and answer the question. Good deed for the day done and I had barely opened my eyes! Then, as phone conversations usually go, we exchanged a few pleasantries - asked about each other's families and lamented Jean's being so far away. Before hanging up, Leslie said to me, " Mary I've got to tell you something." My stomach lurched to my throat - I knew it had to be BAD news! My ability to see the negative in any situation far surpasses my desire to anticipate the positive.

So imagine my surprise when Leslie recounted something her college-aged daughter told her. Like grown kids are wont to do, in a recent family discussion, Camille was reminding her mom of childhood horrors to which the blame was clearly affixed to the adult in the situation, i.e. it's always the mother's fault. She spoke of a ski trip that the church youth group had taken and how her mother had insisted that she participate even though she was suffering the early stages of what turned out to be a particularly ghastly stomach flu.


Having been a mother, and in defense of child abusing mother in question, I am sure Leslie believed the queasiness to be a case of nerves brought about from going on a trip with a bunch of strangers, except, of course, for the sister of her mother's lifelong friend. Now I ask, from the child's point of view, does that relationship make you feel warm and safe? Placed in the same boat (or van packed with kids and coolers as the case may be) I would have thrown up before leaving the church parking lot.


After the retelling of the story, Leslie, felt genuinely remorseful, forgot all the good things she'd done as a mother that now surely never counted as much as this onetime failure to provide adequate health care and comfort. "Camille, I'm so sorry," she lamented.


The part of the story Leslie wanted me to know is this, Camille's response. "Oh, Mom, it's okay, Mary was there for me."

I have written recently about my intermittent (okay, regular as final stage labor pains) memory loss. But I have to tell you, I remember that trip. In my mind it will go down in the annals of our church history as the "trip from (to?) Hell." It was long, the age spread of the kids from 5 (way to0 young) to about 13 (way too adolescently inclined), and ,because of a last minute glich in permission slips, the group was packed into too few transportation vehicles. Without a doubt the car to travel in was the one that held the food and sleeping bags. Alas, I was one of the approved of drivers!

If ever there was a trip when someone needed to take control by saying, "everyone sit down, keep your hands to yourselves, and don't say a word!" it was this one. Which, as I recall, is what I said about an hour away from Jacksonville, on our way home. Needless to say it was nightmarish, probably for everyone, not just me!

I remember the drive. I remember the whining. I remember the sleeping in a cabin that would have been quaint if I'd been there by myself or with my sweetie, but had the rank odor of damp clothes tinged with pubescent body odor. I remember waking up way too early and going to sleep way too late ("I SAID GO TO SLEEP, NOW!!!!). I remember having Holy Communion around the kitchen table. I remember kids from Florida who had never seen snow (or skis) except on TV, playing in the aforementioned sleet like it was a wintery wonderland. I remember driving through a place called Cade's Cove and wondering how much longer until we got back to the cabin which was beginning to take on the semblance of a haven from the chill.

What I don't remember, however, is poor little sick Camille.

After a hot shower and some contemplation, I realized this morning that our lives are full of instances when we touch another's life, or they touch ours, and we are unware of the impact we have. What seems normal and everyday-ish to us, could be the very thing that leaves a fingerprint on someone else's heart. And that's how God works, isn't it?

Zub used to talk of the 6 degrees of separation; how all of us are connected somehow to Kevin Bacon. (Was it Kevin Bacon or Patrick Swayze?) I don't know if that is really true, but I do think we are connected with and by God/Spirit/Love - call it what you will. What I do in this world is not just about me. What you do in this world is not just about you. Like the ripples in a pond when a kid (who is standing too close to the edge making the chaperone nervous) throws an icy snowball into the water, the good I do can reach to the other side and splash on the the unbooted feet of others standing near the shore. Not quite the metaphor, I was going for, but you get what I mean don't you?

I think the timing of Leslie's phone call was perfect. Today is the day before my 56th birthday. It was good for me to spend some time in thought and gratitude about an occasion when I, without even realizing it, made a difference in someone else's life. Because even when I don my Birthday Princess garb - glittery tiara, well-worn flannel pj's, and magic wand - I want to remember it's not just about ME! Well, maybe for the few hours that I hold court and accept indulgences it will be about me, but when I take a big breath to blow out my candles, I'll wish for a life that reaches out and touches others. In my book, that's really what birthdays are all about.

Merry ME

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merry ME, you're a good one. I like you.

~w

And happy day-before-you-b-day!