All the words of wisdom over the years from one mom who thought we probably weren't listening!
We might not have looked like we were listening, Mom. We probably rolled our eyes at the time. You might have wondered if you would ever make an imprint on our developing selves. Guess what? Your lessons stuck.
1) “Look at all the beautiful flowers!”
I was only nine when we drove across the country in a Buick station wagon, all six of us–where did we put the luggage?–and your closest companion, Mom, was your guide to wildflowers. “Look at the lupine!” you exclaimed. “That must be Indian paintbrush. I’ve never seen such beautiful Scotch broom.”
Didn’t think we were paying attention? Wrong. Check out these flowers—Indian paintbrush. Aren't they beautiful?
2) “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Being nice never sounded like that much fun. “You kids are so critical,” you said. We thought we were being perceptive. But now that I’ve been a parent myself and hope someday to be a grandparent, I see what a good model you are. All those years of looking for the positive in people, and saying it, has made you one very pleasant person to be with. When I grow up, can I be like that?
3) “Some people have never even SEEN the ocean.”
This line was delivered like clockwork every summer when we spent two weeks in a beach rental. You and Dad somehow managed to get us equipped with buckets, shovels, towels, bathing suits, balls, a cooler, mattresses, umbrellas and two beach chairs reserved solely for adults.
We always had a heavenly time, surfing, swimming, sailing. But you wanted to make sure we didn’t take it for granted, which we did. Even so, the habit of gratitude was instilled. After all, some people have never even SEEN the ocean.
4) “Have you written your thank-you notes yet?”
I confess there were moments in my childhood where I hoped I really wouldn’t get Christmas or birthday presents from faraway relatives or friends, because each one would require a thank-you note. Not something perfunctory either but one that expressed true appreciation. You even wrote ME a thank-you note when you visited me at college. You practiced what you preached, Mom. Still do.
5) “She probably isn’t a very happy person.”
We would come home from school, full of complaints about that awful girl who sat in the back of third period and said mean things or the guy who called the ball out at recess when everybody could see it was in. What monsters they were, what terrible people. We were allowed to vent. A little.
But then you would ask us, as the old saying goes, “to walk a mile in their moccasins,” to have a little compassion, to look at things their way. Indeed it is much easier to “love thine enemy” when I’ve made an attempt to understand how he or she got that way.
6.“This is your mother.”
This sterling phrase you proclaimed on the phone during any long-distance call when you were apt to say–if we called–“This is your nickel.” That cheery voice, our mother’s.
How could it be anyone else’s? It’s what we hear inside when we’re about to utter a critical word or have forgotten to write a thank-note or have neglected to appreciate the beauty of this world or haven’t seen others with enough compassion. How lucky we are–blessed–that that kindly voice inside is yours, Mom, one that will stay with us forever.
In his new book, Prayer Works, Rick Hamlin shares how prayer gave him ways to reach God amid the challenges of daily life. To order, go to guideposts.org/prayerworks.