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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An important life

It was hard to have coffee this morning and watch reruns of 911. I was stunned...again. I cried...again. I prayed for the victims...again. I prayed for the brave...again. I prayed for the families...again. And once again I remembered the children. Those on the airplanes and those who sit in safety and try to remember a father they never knew.

Each of those lives were important. Each of those lives were and "are" precious.

Why can't we sustain the tiny window that allows us to see why lives are important?

Is it the job that gives a man his worth? Is it the spouse or the money that gives a woman prominence? Is it the test scores that determine the value of a child?

I am afraid that many times we miss the relevance of individual lives. We should have a shrine in every home with pictures and stories. It should be routine on a daily basis to visit that shrine and give thanks for the truly important things in life.

So what is important?

I've always believed that the little things were very important but it's impossible to enjoy the little things without having a few of the big things in place as well.

I'm pretty sure I've been wrong.

For example, I thought that it's "possible" for a man to smile while in jail but not probable. Surely the smile will be overcome by the state he is in. It's possible for a mother to handle the lack of money - but every time she sees the face of her hungry child will she feel love or pain?

I have decided that an important life is not one of wealth or power or even lots of friends. The important life is one that stops.....

stops........

waits........

turns........

assists......

administers compassion and mercy.

That's the truly important life. It's not what we do in our work. It's not raising a family of honor. It's not having all our bills paid. It's not having leisure time to travel or even just to sit quietly on the porch knowing your life is in order.

An important life is one that administers love when others are in pain. An important life is one with eyes tuned in to the suffering of others and a heart ready to lend a helping hand.

Remember the picture of the firefighter carrying the priest from the wreckage of 911?

Remember the many pictures of New Yorkers running covered in dust, unable to breathe yet they are shouldered on either side by a person who cares?

The pain of those who gathered at street corners and parks holding pictures of loved ones was shared by the closeness of others around them. Not once did I see a person in pain without someone reaching out to touch them or to talk to them.

"He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour." Proverbs 21:21

"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

God has a plan for every life and that plan may include something important. That plan may include wealth or success or even power.

But a truly important life must begin and be sustained by righteousness, honor and mercy.

That translates into our lives like this:

When you are rushing to work and the light changes as an elderly man is trying to cross the street, don't blow your horn. Patiently wait. Smile. Wave. Remember that you are administering mercy at this moment and that is the most important thing you can do. Besides, if you are late that is your fault not his.

When your child falls on the way to the car and begins to cry, don't get upset and worry about what your boss will say because you are late. Sit on the ground. Take care of your child. Administer love and mercy. 20 years from now your boss may be dead and your job may no longer exist. But your child....that child will always remember when and if he came first. That child will always remember that you never let him down.

When all you want to do is stay home and get some rest, remember that your Dad was there for you when he was tired. Remember the times he played catch after a hard day at work. Maybe he wanted to just sit and read the paper...but he didn't. Show mercy, get up, go get donuts and visit your father. Sit on the porch and tell him how much you love him. Remember those times when you laughed together. And if the good times are few, simply look into his eyes and thank him for being here.

When every time you see an apple pie you remember a friend who was kind during a tragedy, take a moment and call them or write an e-mail to say, "Thank you for being there for me." Even if you have told them how much they are appreciated...do it again. A Thank You never goes out of date.

When you have worked all day, retrieved the children from daycare, stopped by the store and anger builds as you are once more working alone in the kitchen - remember that every meal set before your family not only fills their stomachs but their minds as well. Collectively they will remember times around the table with love and great joy. Listen to how Rick Bragg recalls memories and meals in his book, "All over but the Shoutin'".

"My mother and father were born in the most beautiful place on earth, in the foothills of the Appalachians along the Alabama-Georgia line. It was a place where gray mists hid the tops of low, deep green mountains, where redbone and bluetick hounds flashed through the pines as they chased possums into the sacks of old men in frayed overalls, where old women in bonnets dipped Bruton snuff and hummed "Faded Love and Winter Roses" as they shelled purple hulls, canned peaches and made biscuits too good for this world. It was a place where playing the church piano loud was near as important as playing it right...where the first frost meant hog killin' time and the mouthwatering smell of cracklin's would drift for acres from giant, bubbling pots........

The women worked themselves to death, their mules succumbed to worms and their children were cripple by rickets and perished from fever, but every Sunday morning The Word leaked out of little white-wood sanctuaries where preachers thrust ragged Bibles at the rafters and promised them that while sickness and poverty and Lucifer might take their families, the soul of man never dies.....

It was as if God made them pay for the loveliness of their scenery by demanding everything else. Yet the grimness of it faded for a while, at dinner on the ground at the Protestant churches, where people sat on the springtime grass and ate potato salad and sipped sweet tea from an aluminum tub with a huge block of ice floating in it. The pain eased at family reunions where the men barbecued twenty-four hours straight and the women took turns holding babies and balancing plates on their knees, trying to keep the grease from soaking through on the one good dress they had. The hardness of it softened in the all-night gospel singings that ushered in the dawn with the promise that "I'll have a new body, praise the Lord, I'll have a new life," as babies crawled up into the ample laps of grandmothers to sleep across jiggling knees."

This is not a Christian book per say because some of it contains questionable language. But if you feel you can take a peek into a little rougher side of life, I certainly would encourage you to read it. After explaining the poverty he lived in he recalled breakfast...

"The one great meal of the day was breakfast, because breakfast is cheap. Every morning of my childhood I woke up to the smell of biscuits, and to the overpowering aroma and popping sound of frying fatback, which we called white meat. Momma fried eggs laid by our own chickens, and made gravy and grits. Sometimes there was nothing but biscuits and gravy made from yesterday's bacon grease, which I would take right now in place of just about anything I usually eat. We always had a hog - not hogs, A hog - and at hog killin' time we ate like kings until he had been reduced to snout and toenails. If I was late for the school bus she would shove a piece of fatback or bacon into a biscuit and I would eat it on the run. To this day I dream not of beautiful women and wealth and power as often as I dream of sausage gravy over biscuits with a sliced tomato on the side, and a small lake of real grits - not that bland, pale, watery restaurant stuff I would not serve on death row, but grits cooked with butter and plenty of salt and black pepper."


The reason I have included so much of another writer is because of who he is....Rick Bragg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996. He is a national correspondent for the New York Times and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. In other words, Rick Bragg has seen the world, made his fortune and has received great accolades. Yet....in his book he remembers the food his mother served him accompanied by a huge dose of love. He doesn't remember the pain of poverty but the succulent goodness of grits and gravy. I mourn for all the 911 victims, but I bet today they are remembering the acts of love and kindness that each family member expressed in their lives.

Pay attention to the little things. That's where your life will be important!

An important life is one that reaches out with love and mercy to those who skirt around our perimeter. Don't ever downplay the value of each act of kindness.

"Whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name....shall not lose his reward." Mark 9:41

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40

God loves you,

Debbie

1 comment:

Michael May said...

I believe bad memories fade, becuase good is stronger, like love it will survive to nourish us once again.
When I was younger, after my parents divorced, things were tough. We didn't have much money to do anything. At 12 years old I had to start working at our church cutting the grass in the summer and shoveling sidewalks in the winter, all for the large sum of $2.00 an hour, cash. Remember I was only 12, so i wans't on the payroll, my money came from petty cash. I had to work because I had to start buying my own school clothes, because, my mother simply didn't make enough to buy clothes for me and my sister. I gladly went to work, because I knew that at 12 I had become the man of the house.
What I remember most, though, was the 1 week vacation my mom got from work every year. She always took it during the summer to spend time with us. Each day of her vacation we did something different. Remember, there wasnt' much money so things were ususally small, like one day going miniature golfing, the next day a picnic at the park. The highlight of the week was usually a trip to Sea World or Geauga Lake for the day.
What I remember most was a conversation I overheard my mother having on the phone with someone I can't recall now. I don't remember any other part of the conversation except the phrase that lingers with me to this day, "I enjoy these kids so much, thats why I can do without." Up until that point I figured she did what she did out of duty as a mother, but, after I heard that statement, I realized how much me and my sister were loved. After that, what I had or didn't have became less of an issue, I was loved and I knew it. I knew it not because she told me, but because she told someone else, and told them gladly.
Debbie you are right, its the things that appear monotonous and small, that seem to have the biggest influence in families.