Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life, Up Close

Our son took us to a presentation of The Secret Garden and obtained front row seats at the college theater, a gesture which was not lost on me. I love plays and the closer I sit, the more I enjoy it.

The play commenced with women attending a party in the garden. As they stood mere inches away from me, I, an aficionado of fabrics, designs, and craftsmanship looked over the costumes carefully. The dresses in blues and pinks and other pastels displayed long sleeves, lace and full skirts. How lovely, I thought. I looked closer. Much to my disappointment, I saw tears in the hems, crooked seams and missing lace. Obviously, the dresses or costumes showed wear and tear. Although it was a natural occurrence for clothes taken out of the theater’s wardrobe, I felt like one feels when an unexpected horrible and hurtful truth is told. An exposure I found hard to deal with.

But isn’t life like this? You have a girlfriend whose company you really enjoy, and then one day she lies, breaks off your lunch date and goes off to lunch with another friend. Or the boyfriend who tells you he is working at a project, and you hear he is actually with another girl. Same thing. When you get up close to the situation you see the truth. It’s just like looking into a magnifying mirror. All the flaws glare at you and you are suddenly shocked at the realization that you hadn’t seen what was really there. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed the flaws before or maybe you had just looked the other way.

Either way, the truth socks you like water splashing you when a car runs over a large puddle of water on the street which you failed to notice as you walked by. And there you are, stunned, frightened and not certain what to do next.

What to do? After mulling this over I’ve decided I still want to sit up close to the action. I want to be as close to life as I can be. Throw the truth at me. I can handle it. Surely, knowing and seeing the truth is better than believing in something and then finding out the truth later. That could hurt more. As I said before, just put me on the front row on the stage of life. I want to see and hear everything. I know all is not perfect nor is it supposed to be. I am ready to take what comes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The World, Before and After Rain

It is raining hard outside right now. These rainy days remind me of rainy days when I was a child. Mama kept a large beautiful chiffonier in the living room. Even though she kept everything in it under lock and key, she gave me access to one of the bottom drawers.

In the drawer I kept play dishes and doll clothes and pieces of cloth to use on my dolls. When it rained and we couldn’t go out to play, instead of feeling disappointed, I felt joyous because it was my opportunity to play with my dolls and the things in the bottom drawer of the chiffonier. Since I was the youngest child for eight years I played mostly by myself.

We lived in a large rambling house with long glass windows that almost came down to the floor. From time to time as I played, I wondered what was going on in the outside world beyond the window, the porch, the street, and even our small town. What are other people doing when it rains like this?

I don’t wonder anymore. People do all sorts of things. They bake bread, sew, work on the computer, knit, crochet, write, converse with one another, read, and wait for the rain to stop so they can perhaps go outside and see how everything looks.

That’s what I did when the rain stopped. My brothers and I ran outside to see the world, now wet, the leaves now glistening with drops of water, roses drooping a bit, the ditch flowing like a small river, the rainbow way up in the sky, and the cleanest air one can ever breathe. It was another world and we were happy to be in it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Match

Among Daddy's faithful customers at his business was Mr. Wright, the owner of his own successful business in our small town. Often Mr. Wright stopped to buy gasoline or to have his car serviced and, while there, chatted with Daddy about various topics. On one occasion in the 1950s he stopped to buy gas and to tell Daddy his wife was seriously ill. Concerned about the situation Daddy asked him if there was anything he could do. Mr. Wright, who had consulted various doctors, smiled patronizingly at Daddy and said, “No, there is nothing you can do, but I appreciate your offer to help.” He drove off and left Daddy thinking about what had just occurred, and he told my mother about it.
Mr. Wright appeared again, and voiced his fear for his beloved wife. Daddy listened and again offered to help in any way he could. Mr. Wright appeared a third time and again expressed concern for his wife and asked Daddy if there was any way one of his sons could go and be tested to see what kind of blood he had. Perhaps it would match his wife’s, and he said he would much rather have the blood of one of Daddy’s boys as he knew they lived wholesome lives. Daddy sent my brothers who were healthy football players. Sure enough, Ben’s blood matched Mrs. Wright’s blood, and the transfusion occurred.
Mrs. Wright recovered and displayed her gratefulness by sending over home-cooked pecan pies from time to time especially for Ben; he shared his gifts with us.
The years passed. We graduated from college and Mr. Wright passed away. We married and had families and in time our parents passed away. Mrs. Wright, meanwhile, experienced good health.
From time to time we traveled to reunions in our small town. Mrs. Wright was always present and talked to all of us, but especially to Ben. The last time we saw Mrs. Wright at a reunion she was 104 years old and lived in a nursing home. Her mind, however, was as alert as it had been fifty two years before. At that last reunion she said to Ben who was now seventy years old, “Ben, I want you to know that it was your blood that kept me going all these years. I want to thank you again.”
We still go to reunions, but we miss Mrs. Wright. I thought she would live forever; she might have thought so, too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The teachers told us to get in the bus because they were taking us to meet someone important. We teenagers rode the bus to a nearby town. All of us shook hands with the U.S. Senator. When it came my turn to shake his hand, he looked above my head at someone else. I knew I was totally inconsequential to the politician. He had other important things to do.

My sister in law told me she, as a high school sophomore, was taken to the home of a college coed. “The way she treated me in her nice home, her smiles, her handshake, the graciousness of her manners, I shall never forget. She made me, an insignificant teenager, feel so important.”

It isn’t the fancy clothing. It’s not about the expensive watch. The fancy haircut from the most expensive salon in the city won’t do it for you either. And it isn’t about the beautiful car parked outside.

The part of you that people will remember the best, the element they will never forget, is the way you treated them. The manner in which you spoke to them, the effort expended in dealing with them whether at work, at a business, or in your home. The respect you displayed toward them in your speech and in your attitude toward them. That memory of you will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Be Happy

“You look happy all the time,” an older friend said to me.

“Oh, do I?”

“Yes,” she told me. “I have the idea that life is good for you.”

“I do feel blessed,” I told her, “but sometimes I have unpleasant things happen to me, also. Every one does. I just made the decision a few years ago to be happy. I discovered that happiness is not the result of only good things happening to you, but rather it is a decision you make in spite of negative occurrences. I decided to be happy.”

“So what do you do when you get hurt?”

“I attempt to deal with it. One deals with one incident a little differently than with another situation. I try to apply the right solution, if one exists, to the appropriate problem. If I can, I put it aside. Either way, I know I shall end up happy.”

It is a decision available to all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

We Are All Everyone

Recently we saw the movie Babel again. A most interesting film about how people from different parts of the world are actually interconnected. Our feelings are so similar, perhaps seen from different perspectives, but so similar, if not identical.
I made some stuffed teddy bears for a shower and kept two for myself. Meanwhile a son went to Uganda to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. When he told me he was staying with a family, a mother and father, four children of their own and four nieces and nephews, I thought of sending a package.
We sent a box with watercolors, activity books, and toys. I saw some space at the very top and added one of the teddy bears. We placed some peanuts and candy in the tiny available spaces .My husband thought of placing a copy of the New York Times for our son to read. We shipped the package off.
My son wrote us a letter in which he described the scene. “I opened the box with all eight children surrounding me. The thought of a package seemed to fascinate them. As I took out each item the children’s eyes grew larger and larger. I distributed the gifts and the father was thrilled to sit and read the New York Times even though the copy was several weeks old."
I remembered as a child when Mother opened a package Grandmother mailed to us. She lived in South Texas while we lived in Central Texas. We circled the kitchen table. The items she sent us could not be found in our part of the state. Pan dulce, for example, by the time it arrived was dried, yet Mother loved it and felt fortunate to get it. Herbs or yerbas, as Mother called them, pleased her. My sister and I received bows with matching feathers for our long black hair. We children and Mother, too, experienced joy and pleasure upon opening those packages.
In Uganda our son ran into a small girl who could not speak or hear. He met her guardians and inquired of the child. They said they were her aunt and uncle and the child couldn’t attend school because of her disability. So she worked cleaning their home. My son investigated further and found a German school for children with disabilities. Yes, they could take her in but she needed a uniform and shoes, something her feet had never experienced. And then there was the matter of the tuition.
He took her to a store where they fitted her for a uniform and shoes. Her eyes, upon wearing the shoes, told the story. How proud she felt of her new shoes, and how strange it must have seemed to cover her feet for the first time in her life.
Her parents invited our son to eat dinner with them. So pleased were they with their daughter’s promising future in an educational setting, that they had to meet the young man and treat him as best they could. Delicious chicken graced their modest table that evening. Thankfulness and graciousness presided in that home that day and perhaps on many other days, also.
Universal feelings. Pleasure in receiving packages. A need. A desire to help. Gratitude. Happiness and hope for a small child. We are all the same. We are all everyone.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Veterans, Our Heroes

It is entirely appropriate to say something about our heroes today on Veterans’ Day. If it were not for the soldiers who fought in WWII, we might not be able to do the things we are doing today.

Our soldiers are not heroes because they killed enemy soldiers. They are heroes because they preserved our liberty, our freedom to live as we are able to live, to go where we please, to worship wherever we choose. They sacrificed for us.

Their fighting for us who waited back home was an unselfish act. Risking their lives for freedom is a concept some might not even appreciate. But if you understand what it is they did, tell a veteran you appreciate his or her efforts. Let them know we are grateful.

God bless us all. And May God bless our country.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Best

The movie Schindler’s List captivated me. The fact that he saved so many people from death in WWII, and the manner in which he did it moved me to tears. In one of the last scenes in the movie in which Israel is honoring him and the descendants of those he saved speak to him, he responds by saying, …”I could have done more.”

A few years ago I ran into a former student. In the third grade she was an extraordinary student. She did her homework, excelled in class and behaved. How could any teacher not love this child? She came up to me and hugged me saying, “My third grade year (when I taught her) was wonderful. In fact I look at those years in elementary school and realize they were the best years of my life.”

Naturally I was pleased with what she said and happy she loved our school environment. But I also thought…I could have done even more.

Actually, there was not a whole lot more I could have done. We didn’t have much technology back then. I made little money so I really couldn’t have spent any more than I did. And I was young and had not traveled much at all. Thus the information or knowledge I passed on to the students came out of the books, our primary source.

But like Schindler I think most of us look back on what we have done and while pleased when we hear something complimentary about our contributions in the past, we usually feel…I could have done more.

My solution: from this day forward I shall do all I can in any given situation so that I can rest comfortably and say…I did my best.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A New Friend

I met him just a few years ago, but his reputation preceded him, as they say. The people who told me about him said, “He is honest, warm, intelligent and a wonderful person to get to know.”

A few minutes into my interview of him and I learned everything they had told me about him was true, and I could add other complimentary attributes.

He answered my questions but probed about my intentions. Why was I asking him about WWII? What did I plan to do with the information? What was the item I placed on the table? It was a recorder.

I felt as though I knew him from long ago, a lost friend. He supported me in my efforts by wishing me well, and his eyes never left mine during the interview. We spoke of mutual friends. And he wished me well.

I attempted to pay for our meal because after all he had given me information I could use. He insisted on paying the bill. We promised to meet again. In a short period of time Hector had become a good friend.