How many times do you put the needs of others ahead of your own? Certainly those of your children. Maybe your spouse? On the job? Your friends? Extended family? Strangers?
Check, check, check, check, check, and check.
Back in the day, I really must have been paying attention to the lesson in Sunday School from Philippians 2, verse 3:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves
And so, I went into marriage, family, and career putting everyone else above myself. I know I have a lot of company in this regard–any woman who adds the job title mother to her already full list of responsibilities is well aware of the sacrifices it entails to raise children, while managing and balancing everything else as well.
And yet, after a lifetime of coming in last place, I began to feel like I didn’t matter.
- There’s not enough money for the kids to get Christmas and for me to get a birthday gift? No problem.
- We need to downsize and fit a family of five into a townhouse? No problem.
- Elderly father needs to move in and takes over one-third of the house? No problem.
- The diamond fell out of my wedding ring and it’s not a priority to replace it? No problem.
- A friend needs a place to stay—for a few years? No problem. I’ll teach summer school and write curriculum to cover the extra expenses.
- (To oldest son) Your friend’s mother kicked him out and his father is in a Turkish prison? He wants to move in? No problem. I’ll write more curriculum to cover the extra expenses.
- (To middle son) Your friend’s mother died and he never gets a decent meal? He can come here after school and then I’ll drive him home after dinner. No problem.
- The kid I’ve been feeding broke into our house last Saturday night and stole our Wii? No problem.
- There’s no place I can stick a desk and my books and write in peace? No problem.
- Nicholas said he wants to “put a bullet in my forehead” but Mr. Assistant Principal says, “Boys will be boys” and wants to return him to my classroom the next day? No problem.
- Oldest son’s live-in friend has a secret drug problem and has fenced our belongings? No problem.
- “But it’s just Broken Heart Syndrome—not a real heart attack, right? …Oh, that is a heart attack?” No problem.
- You want me to teach what? Where? No problem.
- What do you mean, “the surgery wasn’t successful?”
To say it’s been a rough ten or fifteen years would be an understatement, but Swedish blood runs in my veins and we are a stoic lot.
So I don’t matter. So what? Tough toenails. Push through it.
And so I sucked it up as per usual, and went on preparing for a Griswold Family Christmas to beat all. Ho. Ho. Ho.
On December 23, I was excited about Christmas—I looked forward to having all of my boys in church on Christmas Eve, seeing them open their gifts the next morning, making an old-fashioned country Christmas breakfast for five, and of course, spending time with family and friends–which really means cooking a big holiday dinner, cleaning it up, and seeing to the needs of twenty people in a small house. But I digress.
And so with a day to go, I still needed a few things from the grocery store, so off to Wegman’s I went. With about a thousand other people. Every spot in the lot was taken, so I had to parallel park at the far exterior of the lot, along with a string of other cars. Then I made my way into the store with a spring in my step, looking forward to the next couple days.
After returning to my car with a few bags of groceries, I pulled out of my parking spot and noticed a small piece of paper under my windshield wiper. Probably some stupid advertisement, I decided, although looking at the other cars in the lot, I saw none with paper under the wipers.
Lucky me, I figured, switching the wipers on, but to no avail. It was not an ad after all, but a smaller piece of paper, folded in half, that wasn’t going anywhere.
I pulled over and took the piece of paper out from beneath the wiper and got back behind the wheel. I opened the handwritten note and read it:
How on earth? Who in the world? No one knew the way I’d been feeling except for my husband and sister—the former was in another state working and the latter was baking goodies on the other side of the county.
Tears came to my eyes–not Level Five Tears--as in full-out nose-honking, eye-swelling, body-heaving, ugly-ass bawling.
No, this was different. These tears were akin to the hair standing up on the back of one’s neck when something other-worldly occurs–like a sudden chill when one is neither sick nor cold.
The tears came because this was a significant moment in my life. One I will always remember. I had just received an extraordinary gift.
A simple reminder that It’s a Wonderful Life, no matter how messy and twisted things get.
Touched by an angel? Why not…
I’m choosing to believe they walk among us.
Besides, when someone throws you a life preserver, catch it.
Happy New Year! Thanks for reading–and may you and yours enjoy a blessed 2017!
Hot Flash Suzi