My mother taught Science, Physical Education, and Health at a junior high school for 33 years. She gave up her Wednesday evenings, some Friday nights, and countless weeks during the summer to work with the youth at our church. We lived in a small Smoky Mountain town and to this day, when I go home to visit, someone tells me how wonderful my mother is. She taught me and hundreds of other kids the strength in giving of yourself.
One Saturday, my mother and I went to run errands. In this town running errands usually involves a trip to Asheville, the big city about 30 minutes down the interstate. I was in high school, into Nirvana and the anti-celebrity, and believed fiercely that I knew everything and did not care about what others thought of me.
As we entered the city I asked my mother where we needed to go. She rattled off a list of places which included the liquor store. “What? What do you have to get there?” I asked as if she had just spoken a foreign language. She reminded me that she was making a coconut cake and that the recipe called for rum. My mother makes a mean coconut cake and I wasn’t going to argue but this was the first I’d ever heard of a cake recipe calling for rum (home economics was not a class I was interested in taking). So, I launched into a 10 minute diatribe addressing what I thought to be every angle of my argument based upon the fact that if anyone really cared, they’d just ask you what you were doing walking out of a liquor store. My mother patiently listened to my rant, paused, and calmly responded with, “Leah, nobody’s going to ask. People don’t ask, we assume. I might be influencing someone else just by going about my life, and if that means that I have to drive all the way over here so I can make a cake, then that’s what I’ll do. Sometimes you just DO for other people.”
I got it. It wasn’t about her. It was about what she was teaching people, my friends even. One friend put it, “When I got in trouble, I wasn’t worried about what my parents would think. I was worried about what your parents would think.”
I totally got it. My mother took baskets of food to a grouchy old man, helped organize tea parties for girls in foster care, and visits women in nursing homes. I’m still finding out what she’s done for others because she never came home talking about it. She does this humbly, without advertisement. She wipes away entitlement for the sake of showing others what she believes. She drives out of her way to keep true what she teaches to others. I still hear it and wonder how many other people hear it. Leah, sometimes you just do for other people.
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