“Let’s go, you said you would be ready at 7:35. It is 7:34 and 45 seconds. Let’s move it!” my mother barks at me as I fumble with my water bottle. We are on our way to our Saturday morning spin class, an outing I look forward to each week for both the exercise and getting to be with my favorite person in the world — my 63-year-old mother.
Does she let her age and aching back stop her from a grueling 45-minute work out? Ha! This ride is a piece of cake compared to what she has conquered in her life. At the age of 13, she left home and joined the convent. After 10 years, she realized it wasn’t for her, got married, and started her career as a teacher. She spent the majority of her career working in the Chicago suburbs. She raised a family while continuing to flourish in her career. After her retirement, she signed on for four more years as an Assistant Principal at an inner-city Chicago school. This woman is motivated, sharp, fair, and kind. And regardless of the perils that she faced behind closed doors, she never let that stop her from emitting a positive light.
After our exhausting workout, my mother and I give our thanks to our spin instructor, who has played a John Denver ditty as the cool down song based on her request. The rest of the class groaned as my mother beamed and giggled.
“Thanks for the song, Jeff!” she calls as we exit the gym.
“Anything for you, Mary Ann!” he returns.
We then head to Starbucks, where the barista begins making my mom’s drink as soon as she walks in the door.
“Thanks for the Obama pin, Mary Ann!” The barista gushes as she admires the pin attached to her apron.
“Keisha, my friend, it was my pleasure!” my mom warmly returns as she adds Sweet-and-Low to her Misto.
We park the car at her condo building and head upstairs. On our way, we pass several other residents, all of who smile and greet my mother.
“Good morning, Mary Ann. Thanks for the cookies! That was so thoughtful of you,” an elderly woman says as she makes her way out of the elevator.
“Oh, you’re welcome Doris. Are you heading out to see Frank?”
“Yes. He smiled at me yesterday! It made my day,” Doris says as she tries to turn her head while staying balanced between her walker.
“That’s wonderful. Have a lovely visit today,” my mother returns.
As the elevator doors close, I pause and stare at the small, five-foot two woman before me. In a matter of 10 minutes, she has managed to brighten a minimum of three people’s days without skipping a beat. “This is who raised me,” I think. “This is who I aspire to be.”
My mother has many admirable qualities, but perhaps the most impressive is her attitude. I have rarely seen her down or feeling sorry for herself as long as I’ve known her. She has had plenty of adversity throughout her life. But rather than worry about herself, she has found a way to be a light to others.
I believe that my mother is a gift to this world. She brings smiles to people’s days in the simplest of ways, but it makes all the difference. And because of her, I believe that I, too, can make a small difference in each and every person I interact with daily. Some call it “karma,” some call it “paying it forward.” I call it “being like my mother.” She is a source of happiness and love to many. The smiles she inspires make people’s lives worth living. This I believe.