You are what you think. You are what you go for. You are what you do. ~ Rev. Bob Richards
I mentioned in a former post that funds, after my father’s passing, were scarcer than hen’s teeth. But I never thought I was disadvantaged. I knew many had more than I. Attending public school has a way of making that glaringly clear. I was also aware of many more who had less; that also was clear from school; integrating with the community; and the many opportunities my mother had us take to share even what little we had. There’s always someone richer. There’s always someone poorer. My mom, like many mothers, gave up much for herself so that I could have more. But she also had me do without what I wanted in favor of what I really needed that I might learn the difference. Perhaps that is how I learned to “take what you need and leave the rest for someone else”. No matter how little you have, there is always enough to share. Promoting quality, not quantity. First lessons of social justice. Learning dignity.
We ate alot of homemade chicken soup to stretch the food dollars. It was decades before I cared if I ever saw it again. We grocery shopped every two weeks and I could choose one dessert. It was nearly always ice cream, because I knew it would last the two weeks. Almost always coffee, because it was both our favorite. But sometimes I chose Grapenut knowing it was her ultimate favorite and my least – my gift of dignity to her. I didn’t have an allowance, but I never seemed to lack for anything I needed. My mother sewed most of my clothes. Although, I do admit, I sometimes envied I couldn’t have something “store bought” – I never mentioned this. A further gift of dignity. Mutual love and respect being the motivation. Important lessons for us all. Shared dignity.
Our community did not have great monetary wealth. But we almost all had gardens, livestock, and/or other skills to share and with which to barter. Our social contracts were not written. “Ella, I have some extra eggs this week, would you like some?” My mother was known for her culinary expertise. One day in the future, we would drop off some homemade goodness. “I was making pies and thought you and Andy might enjoy a slice or two.” Maybe a bouquet from her flower garden to brighten, unbidden, someone’s day. Gifting dignity.
Don’t get the message we had a perfect relationship. We didn’t, if you think perfect means no conflict. But conflict teaches us. I would challenge her directions, like any good teen. She didn’t do a great job encouraging me, but she thought her technique was right. Always pushing me to do better, which I saw as rarely doing good enough. Doing my best was expected, not rewarded. Her hope was that I would have opportunities and life improvements that had eluded her. Yet, it was together that we managed to gaze out on the sharp edges of the landscape that was our life and not let it scare us from moving forward. Dignity.
She taught me by example to stand up for what is right; whatever that meant to me. Take a stand and be ready to back it up, leaving room to respect another opinion. Resolving conflict with dignity.
Coming together on the final leg of her journey was one of unspoken, mutual consent. All of these lessons would serve us well. Dignity granted.