Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.—PHILIPPIANS 2:4 (GNT)
When I received an e-mail from the director at Mom’s assisted-living facility, my heart rate doubled. What now? I hope she hasn’t left her stove burner on again. But this time it was only a request to help Mom pick up the mounds of clutter in her apartment so the cleaning staff could dust and vacuum.
I’d noticed the unfinished letters, half-read books, and five-dollar bills piled haphazardly everywhere—on the coffee table, kitchen counter, living room floor. Once an efficient accounting clerk, Mom had lost her ability to organize. I would’ve jumped right in and decluttered on my frequent visits, except that Mom did not want help. She’d lost so much independence in the last few years. If I offered to tidy up her apartment, she’d take it as a criticism that she couldn’t manage on her own. So I got sneaky.
When I knew Mom was playing Bingo in the dining room, I let myself into her apartment. I sorted and tossed junk mail, ancient church bulletins, and expired coupons. I dumped spoiled food from her fridge. I put dirty clothes left on the bathroom floor into the hamper.
One day when I showed up for lunch, Mom waved her hand over the room like a game show hostess displaying expensive prizes. Her eyes shone. “Did you notice how nice and neat my house looks today? I cleaned it up for your visit.”
My secret was safe.