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The Power of Lists
When I was a little girl, I made lists of my troubles and then I would go to sleep. As an adult, I still make lists, although now my list includes more than troubles. It now includes what I must do first thing in the morning, what the next day might bring; and it includes thoughts on money, retirement, family, and whether my stiff, tired legs mean anything except being tired.
A few years ago my mother suffered from lung cancer. She had never smoked a cigarette in her life and hadn’t been around someone who smoked for many years. Still, there was a tumor in her lung and the cancer saw fit to travel throughout her body, causing her to suffer mightily. While she was being treated for this insidious disease, I often traveled to her home to be with her, clinging to the hope that she would survive her illness and be with me for many years to come.
On one of my many visits home, my dear mother rested in her bed and I sat in a rocking chair near by. We had the TV on with the volume turned low and we talked. That afternoon, I told her about my practice going back more than forty years of making lists that counted down my troubles. I told her how, as a young girl, I often included things like going to school, seeing the dentist, and hoping that soon my father would be home. I told her that as an adult, my list was far more serious. I didn’t have to add that she was always on the list. My mother looked at me with her loving brown eyes, smiled a little bit, and took my hand. She said, “What you were really doing was praying. You were praying that God would help you with all that was troubling you.” She added that she believed counting her blessings, making her lists, had helped her with the pain and her suffering, and sometimes, in her prayers, she counted her troubles too. We then talked about family, what was on TV, and if she could eat something, anything at all. But what she said, the look on her face, her soft warm hand taking mine, stayed with me throughout the day and everyday since. It was true. As a child, I was praying, I just didn’t know it. And as an adult, I’m still praying, still making my lists.
To my great sorrow, my mother died a little more than a year after her diagnosis, but I know she prayed, and I know she made her lists. Like her, I believe in the power of making lists. I believe, as she did, that it is important and it makes a difference. Lists help us get through our days and nights. Lists are powerful. We make them to ask for help, for forgiveness, for clarification, and for salvation. Indeed, we make lists so we can go to sleep.
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