They say epiphanal moments come in threes. And I just had my third moment. Perhaps I needed it.
1) A life worth living
The first moment was a funeral that I attended Friday morning. The lady who died was two years younger than I am now, so she was too young to die. I did not know her, but I am friends with her parents. The lady had been through the ringer for the last 20 years–having part of a cancerous tumor removed at 34, mere months after giving birth to her second and last child. Then she had to have chemo, learning to walk again, learning to adapt from being an athlete to a dependent person, and many other areas where her life was no longer the same. She had a loving husband and sons and extended family and friends. She was loved, truly loved. And her inspirational story of her never letting what she lost overwhelm her remembering what she still had, touched me very deeply. And here is one of the lovely hymns played at her funeral (not intended in a preachy way, I just like the sentiments):
2) My failure revealed
The second moment came Saturday when I realized that I was not invited to a gathering–that I knew I wouldn’t be invited to anyway. It is too long a story to go into here. So the short version is that I am being shunned for my bleeding heart, as it used to be labeled. Last year, I had countered a younger person’s dismissive attitude about those in lesser circumstances with examples from my longer life of peoples and organizations that I volunteered with or donated to and for to benefit people on the margins, the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the underemployed, the forgotten, and the abused.
I respect and admire my friends who live in difficult circumstances with grace and perseverance too much to cave in to pressure to agree with those who have little or no compassion for others. My late friend Emma–the retired waitress of 50 years who had barely existed on Social Security and social aid in her final years–whom I eulogized here on my blog after her death in 2011, was one such graceful, dignified, person of lesser circumstances–who always shared her gentle spirit with others–and whom I admired and called a dear friend.
So I spoke passionately to this younger person last year about the debilitating cycles of poverty and the shameful legacy of racism. And I argued that society needs to help the less fortunate, that children cannot help being born into poverty and deserve a good life with opportunity, as much as, a child born to wealthy parents has, that society needs to work for the common good in helping and empowering individuals in need, and that we and society benefit when we raise others up. I believe that we are our brother’s keeper. But it was to no avail. The younger person would not hear me. I failed. And though I thought that we had agreed to disagree last year, that younger person has cut me out of their life. And it is a person whom I dearly love, even though I do not have contact with them directly anymore. It will be my greatest regret if we are not able to mend this rift.
I have hesitated to share this about myself here on my blog. But I feel that it is important to be honest and forthright. I am a flawed person, not perfect. And my wish to focus on the positive and hopeful in my blog here, is sometimes born of my sorrow. And perhaps sharing my story will help someone else feel not alone.
3) Struggling to raise her children, a Mom explains why feeding her kids from a food bank is not a disgrace; part of Yahoo’s #NoShameParenting series:
And then a third moment, the following story came into my news feed this past Saturday night just after our clothes washer broke down and must now be repaired (we hope it can be repaired)–this mother’s story is a gift to me of further inspiration and of perspective. Here is an excerpt:
“As I was juggling a box of week-old crackers and a bag of apples with brown spots on them while trying to find my keys, my 7-year-old daughter hit the back of my leg so hard with a bag full of cans she was lugging up the stairs that my whole body recoiled. We weren’t even in the kitchen yet when my 4-year-old son, clutching a box of cereal to his chest while grinning from ear to ear, asked me the same question for the third time in a row.
“Can we eat this now, Mommy?” he pleaded, his eyes reflecting the excitement in seeing a picture of a toy prize on the front of the box — a prize that probably wasn’t even in the cereal box anymore because it had clearly been ripped open and then taped back together. Exhausted from the mental toll that the trip to the food bank had taken on me and wanting to buy just a few more minutes of time before I crushed his 4-year-old dreams, I heard myself saying, “We can eat in 20 minutes if you guys go play first.”
Clamoring off and nearly running each other over in their attempts to reach their toys first, I sunk down onto my couch and thought about how I had gotten myself into this position — how I had become the mother feeding her children from a food bank and why I was the mom who constantly had to disappoint her children with the reality of everything that I simply cannot give them. …”
Please read more of this mother’s poignantly inspirational story at:
After reading about this lady struggling financially to raise her kids with love and a sense of their own self worth, I feel that my troubles are miniscule. This article was just the shot in the arm I needed –if not to boost–at least to strengthen my resolve and to realign my spirits. I am refocused and repurposed.
We are on this Earth for but a brief span of time, and we must use our time wisely. I will not have the legacy of children to live on after me–no grandchildren to remember me, nor descendants to look me up in a family tree, wondering about who I was. But hopefully, my legacy will be of trying to be helpful and understanding to those who struggle or who are in need, encouraging and mentoring to my students, and being grateful for the blessings that I have in my life of the love of my husband and the kindness of my friends. And I hope that I will make a positive difference in people’s lives, however small a positive difference that might be.