Sunday, August 15, 2010

Let The Circle Be Unbroken- They are watching

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them.  If you can help your neighbor now, don't say, "come back tomorrow, and then I'll help you."  ---Proverbs 3: 27-28

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.—Matthew 6:3-4

I did something kind today.  And I hesitate to write about it on here because I don't want you to mistake this post as one for the purpose of bringing light upon myself- and on my own goodness.  I have another purpose here (and as for my goodness, well, it is really pretty tattered, cracked around the edges- a real mess- not so good, actually). 

I wanted to talk tonight about what our children see.  This summer, my kids have seen a mother, a bit out of her mind at times, occasionally fluttering through her days like a lost bird, barely capable of launching itself into the air to find what it needs to keep going.  There have been days and nights where they've seen their parents come to their wits end with one another, more than I'd ever hoped.  They've seen grief, raw and aching.....And if I took these truths and separated them from the dailiness from whence they come, I could do a fabulous job at convincing myself that I was flunking out of the "good mommy school,"  just in time for Lily, Liam, Benajmin and Seth to be carted off to prison, or a psychiatrist, or a ditch somewhere, or perhaps, all three.

But I know, from experience, that, while my children are certainly  aware of the most painful times taking place in their household, and that their parents are failing at the "superhuman" job description they mistakenly set forth to accomplish, they are also taking in all of the ways, rare as they seem sometimes, that I'm doing the right thing- the bottom of humanity kind of right thing, the stuff  that isn't going to earn me a trophy or great accolades or that big interview on Oprah.

Last winter my daughter wrote an essay, in English class, about her hero and she chose me (she said it was a toss up between her mother and Eleanor Roosevelt....an honor beyond honors I would say)  The amazing thing about the words in her piece, other than the fact that they were a resounding pat on the back for me, is that they had nothing to do with how great I am as a mother or about all the time I've spent nurturing her and her brothers, all the cool places we've been to together- the gifts under the tree at Christmas.  Her paragraphs spoke of stories of how I'd given to others- meals when a friend was sick, or had a crisis of some sort, how I'd rescued baby ducks from the side of a busy road (truly one of my finer "superwoman" moments, believe me), and when I'd taken  my kids to wrap presents for orphans in a disadvantaged section of Pittsburgh.  And what I learned from this paper, which was humbling and validating and inspiring, was that my children, who often drive me to the end of my rope and don't seem to step out of the periphery to see what is truly important in this life, are getting it anyway.  They are watching- from the corners of their eyes while climbing trees, building forts, beating the crap out of one another, watching mindless T.V., or playing the Wii.....They are watching, friends, absorbing all the nuances and subconscious life-lessons,  and they are getting it.

We'd been on the road for a couple of hours today when Tom made a pit stop at a gas station/food court, somewhere along the side of the turnpike.  We parked, and  in the space in front of us, were two young people, struggling to change the tire on their run-down, beat-up excuse of a vehicle.  And it was so hot.  The sweat was pouring off  of their foreheads- down their arms- laden with vulgar art, most likely created by a peer in an altered state of consciousness.  The clothes they were wearing (not due to a lack of wardrobe, I'm assuming, but to a slightly less appropriate fashion sense than the rest of us) were foul.  They weren't the kind of people the typical American, middle- class family would  choose to invite over for supper.   In fact, I can bet, with some certainty, if you were to run into them in a dark alley, they'd either rob you blind or offer you a hit off of their crack pipe.  There was stark humility there, though- watching them throw their whole bodies into trying to get the most unrelenting tire bolts to loosen- as they lay on the dirty pavement, encouraging one another....and you couldn't help but want to lend a hand, though neither my husband nor I have the slightest clue how to fix even the most common of car problems (we renew that AAA membership, with fervor, every year!)  Lily, my twelve year-old, starts laughing, as the girl's pants slip down her backside, exposing her rear- end and though, I understand my daughter's viewpoint (exposed butts in public are really not attractive), I quickly and sternly reminded her that we too have been in such grueling situations, pulled over on the roadside, scared of being stranded, feeling like all the good Samaritans in the world must have changed their occupations or gone home for the day- and how awful it feels- that total helplessness.  So, without further deliberation, I listened to my gut and  I got out of the van-- Lily yelling- "Mommy- what are you going to do?  Mommy, MOMMY!  What are you doing (I think she sensed her "embarrassing authority figure" rising to the occasion and this mortifies her, constantly,  to no end)?".  I walked over to the down-and-out couple  and I spoke to them with empathy, asking  if I might purchase them some cold sodas.  At first they looked at me with some shock and hesitation, like I was a freak, then the girl politely says "I would love a Pepsi, please,"  her friend adding "could I have one, too?"  And as I bought them their drinks, my head didn't swell with  pride or preach to itself of my greatness (we do that sometimes, don't we- that sickening "I am so good routine.")($3.59 for some pop was not a sacrifice beyond measure, folks), but I did recognize the lesson happening here, for my kids.   In their world of stuff and getting, getting, getting, my children don't see enough that there are people all around them who need kindness- not from better people than them, just from others who can give it at the time.  And though, they were inpatient to get back on the road, and they were wondering why I had to be so weird and buy drinks for strangers (who looked so weird), they saw their completely imperfect human being of a mommy reach out, with nothing to gain, to ease the lives of others- something so simple, yet so powerful and life changing.  And the beauty of all of it, is that, in this simple gesture, lives were changed, even for a millisecond- maybe the downtrodden tire kids had a renewal of faith in the goodness of strangers, or they felt the presence of God in the cold bottles of Pepsi- cooling them down, easing the pain of life momentarily- and one day, four Sombar children, who've sometimes had marginal parenting, and who all have issues of their own- will remember these moments, and they will hear the whispering of the spirit inside of them, and they will offer kindnesses to someone in need-and the world will continue to be a better place.
Our goodness may be like filthy rags, as the Bible says (Isaiah 64:6), very often loaded with ulterior motives, agendas, or judgement of others, but the gifts we give instinctively from our souls,like a gut reflex, without fancy plans or maneuvers, are being seen by the world's children: mine, yours, some body else's,  across the ocean somewhere, and because of this, for all of the brokenness we see around us, every day, the circle of life and of love and of peace, will remain unbroken, and repeated by the next generation.

So the next time you're feeling like a miserable wreck of a mother or father, because you think that you screw up in front of your kids too much, or you weren't cut out to be any one's role model, and you figure that all they ever notice are your many faults and frailties- remember some of those little things you do for others, which may take only a few minutes of your time, or a few dollars out of your pocket- those little kindnesses do not go unnoticed.  Your kids are watchingThey are, most definitely, watching.

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About Me

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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