September 11, 2015
Last week Michele spoke about everyone being able to make a difference in this big old world. I wonder all of the time if I am making a difference. Am I somehow making the world a better place? If I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, will I have left the world a little better place for my having been here? I want to go out leaving behind more than my good intentions. We all have things we thought we would someday do, but never did. Some of us have more than others. I have so many it isn’t even funny. Ponder yours while I rattle on a bit.
The evenings that creep up on me have caused me to make some of the best dinners. You know, if I plan a recipe, buy the ingredients, and am all fake organized, it lets me down. I hate it when Ben says anything less than, “this is the most delicious meal I have ever eaten and you looked like a supermodel making it. Why don’t I do the dishes?” I just don’t get the reaction I think putting so much work into something that is gone so quickly should get. What I have found is that my own creations get a better reaction. That is so strange because it happens when I realize it is dinner time and I have no plan, a box of pasta, random items in the fridge, and no time. Then, of course, everyone raves about how great dinner was. I would say, “glad you loved it, but I have no clue how I made it, so you will never have it again.”
So, a few years ago I started taking note of ingredients and writing things down. It has taken me years to perfect my meatloaf and meatballs. It is now written down. It is written on a stained piece of computer paper, but it is written down. Meatloaf is on one side, meatballs on the other. It is all disgusting and splatted and if I lose it, poof, they are gone. The thought here was to someday write a cookbook. Well, I have a monkey folder that was Laura’s in first grade. All of my recipes are in there and written on various sticky notes, paper, whatever. It’s a mess. Sometimes I can’t find the monkey folder. We refer to it as my cookbook. I don’t think I will ever write a cookbook as it sounds too boring. I am a moody one so reserve the right to change my mind with no notice. I think it would be the wordiest cookbook ever written and no one would buy it. So, maybe someday I will at least type up my recipes and put them in a binder with those protective things we used for college reports…kind of like each recipe is in its own Ziploc bag. You know, it would be like a splash guard so that if you happen to be a messy cook, which I totally am, no problem. So, I suppose leaving the world with a cookbook isn’t what I worry about. Besides, I don’t want anyone else to make my best stuff. It’s like the flowers, I have a power trip going. I want MINE to be the best and no one can ever duplicate it (truth is that it is not the case). I will go out of this world with some false sense of meatloaf superiority and am not sure that is what God is looking for in the ever after.
When I was working outside of the home I knew I was making a difference. I knew that by enforcing licensing regulations I was helping to keep kids safe. I gave of myself too. I spent time with the teachers and children, trying to see what was really going on. I also conducted what we in the business called Stage II investigations…these were follow-up visits after protective services had investigated abuse and neglect charges. I would then address any licensing issues related to whatever the report was. It mattered. I had always thought maybe I could change things on a level that was profound.
If I could talk to anyone dead or alive, it would be Mother Teresa. I have mentioned her to you in prior issues. She is my hero. She gave of herself, with no expectations of anything in return. Wow, she changed lives. Who is brave enough to pick up a leper off of the street? She would touch them and make them feel human and loved, nurse their wounds and feed them. She lived a life of poverty and hunger so that she could relate. I have many of her books and was truly so sad when she passed. So, in my dreams I want to make a difference to the world on that kind of level. I would not survive in a convent, however, because I am a little too outspoken for that. I regret not joining the peace-corps right after college. That would have been awesome.
Kathi and Dave Gomendi are heroes of mine as well. They are tireless, give of themselves every single time the need arises. They helped us personally when we had a family crisis. They have fed countless hungry people over the years. Laura, Ben, and I have only volunteered to serve meals to the homeless once so far but it was memorable and made me feel so great inside. You saw people that were hungry, tired, and so grateful. You saw some with mental illness, some maybe drug addicted, some just down on their luck, and all happy to be inside with a hot meal. They were not different from you and I on the inside. Any one of us could be in that situation, you never know. The people that work with Kathi are amazing. Laura and I worked in the serving line and the girl we worked with, Janell, knew most people’s names and their likes and dislikes. One lady did not want her food touching, you know she wanted each thing in its own space on the tray. Janell greeted her by name and then told me how she liked it. Now that is treating someone with dignity and love. I found myself saying, “God bless you” to as many people as I could that day. I wanted to look in their eyes and for them to know that I loved them and that they matter in this crazy world. I thought about them that night as I curled up in my comfy bed with the remote.
Last Sunday at church was so awesome. For those of you that weren’t there, here is a brief overview. During children’s time, Jessica gave each child a puzzle piece. She asked them what they could do with that one piece. Well, kinda nothing. If they worked together they could put the puzzle together. God wants us to work together and to know that each person makes a difference. We all got a puzzle piece at communion, not knowing what they were for. The first thing I thought was that if we had to try to put this together, I would just die. That didn’t sound like my cup of tea at all. I don’t find puzzles at all enjoyable. My husband, however, is driven to complete them. He does the crossword puzzle in the paper every day. Those things just make me feel really stupid. Anyway, Michele’s sermon was amazing, as they usually are. This one was life changing for me. She told us to turn our puzzle piece over and there was a word written on each one. Some examples of words were ‘warm, love, share’. You get the picture. Well, my piece said ‘pennies.’ Michele explained that every person in the room could do something big with that one word to help someone or make the world a little better place. You see, it isn’t about everyone being a Mother Teresa. If we all are good, giving, kind, courageous people, we will for sure make the world better. This is 100% for sure. A light came on for me. It was not too late for me. I do make a difference just by being kind. My puzzle piece was ironic for me. When I was first diagnosed with MS, I attended lots of talks and workshops, support groups etc. Someone told me that you must conserve your energy and spend it wisely, like pennies. So, not everything gets done. Do the stuff that matters. The dinner I spoke of earlier doesn’t really matter, what matters is us being together and that can be tomato soup and grilled cheese if I don’t have enough pennies left in reserve. Some things (and people) cost just too much and I have to be careful that I have enough pennies left for the important stuff. Sometimes Ben will refer to the pennies when I go gung ho first thing in the morning. So, that is one thought that hit me with the pennies. On a more real level, I put change in a mug on my desk, and Ben and I have one in the bedroom that we use also. The one in the bedroom, however, is two separate jars, one for pennies, one for silver. Ben has had these jars forever, since before me, if you can imagine a Ben without Erin. No way. Well, I mistakenly just hucked all of my change in one. Nooooooo. They must not intermingle. I don’t work that way, but since they are really his thing, I comply. Anyway, I plan to gather up all of the pennies in the jars, mugs, car consoles etc. and go cash them in. Laura is getting hers too. We have not decided the charity yet, but that is what we will do with them.
Michele, you are my hero as well. You are an amazing person. You practice what you preach. You make such a difference. What a profound sermon. If all of us use our puzzle pieces to give of ourselves, that is HUGE. We are just one church and think of what we could do to change lives. If we each are kind and loving to everyone we interact with, the world is better. If you reflect on your puzzle piece and commit to bumping it up a notch, that makes an even bigger difference. Every single person on earth can make a difference every single day of the year. I know that some don’t, but the point is they could. It is what God wants us to do. We are to figure the puzzle out, to live together and work together. No one is left out, we are all equal. If we treat others with disrespect there will be holes in the puzzle. The picture cannot come together.
Check your puzzle piece. If you do not have a puzzle piece, make one up of your own. Some good words would be….hope, comfort, lift, friend…you get the idea. You don’t need the puzzle piece to do what is right.
I have said before, anything is possible with courage and kindness. I bet those words were on puzzle pieces. If you give of yourself, it comes back to you tenfold.