I believe that my grandmother taught me how to change the world.
Mimi always knew her neighbors. She baked the best pound cakes and was always ready to deliver one when there was a need. She played baseball with her grandchildren in the front yard and took us to feed the ducks. She gave people second chances – and third and fourth chances. Mimi taught me about the importance of forgiving others, but also of forgiving yourself. She took the garbage men and letter carriers cold drinks on hot days and left the lady who delivered her paper Christmas candy for her children. Mimi knew and loved all of my friends. She had us all in her home, fixed us food, washed our clothes, and even pulled our teeth. Mimi would pray with us, and make us pray out loud together. Mimi was a nurturer.
That’s how you change the world.
My grandmother cared about animals. She always was watching someone’s dog or bird, or rabbit. She fed the neighborhood cats. Mimi taught me how to drive. In her little orange Toyota she spent many afternoons in the cemetery patiently letting me try again. Mimi liked to watch things grow. She loved God. The way she talked about God, made God real. My grandmother had a contagious smile and was generous. She always slipped me ten dollars as I headed back to college for something to eat on the road, or for gas for my car. But she wasn’t just generous with me. She often overpayed the people who cut her grass or cleaned the gutters. Mimi made sure that our family stayed in touch. Mimi protected me when I needed protecting. She made me feel safe. Often when I was at her house I would ask if I could have a certain something to eat or play with. Her answer was always the same – “Meg, you can have anything in this house that you want. You can have anything I have.”
That is how you change the world.
I have no idea how many days she sat on a cold bench at the soccer field, or how many piano recitals she attended. She modeled the importance of consistent presence.
I believe my grandmother taught me to change the world.
Mimi loved people because they were people. She loved all kinds of people – young and old, rich and poor, black and white. When Uncle John and I slashed open her best Christmas table cloth trying to cut wrapping paper, she sewed on a piece of decorative piping, and swore she liked it better with more flare. Mimi taught me grace. Mimi taught me the importance of kind and gentle touch. Mimi knew how much hugs matter. My grandmother had tremendous strength and persistence. In the months when her mind got foggy and she had trouble remembering, she continued to try and try again.
My grandmother taught me to change the world.
Death sometimes comes quickly and suddenly. Sometimes, as in Mimi’s case – it comes little by little. Mimi changed in her last years but the things that she taught me have not changed and have not died. That is how you change the world.
Mother Teresa said that “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mimi did no great things by our world’s standards but she did thousands of small things and she did them all with great love.
That is how you change the world. That is how my grandmother taught me to change the world.
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