At Least There was Milk in the Fridge

milk

Often, I would have one of those excruciatingly painful conversations with one of my offspring when they highlight my failures as a parent. I never cared. I never listened. I never did anything for them. Well, I respond with, “at least there was milk in the fridge.”

Yeah, we had some tough times. Yeah, the kids went without a lot of things. Yeah, we had our share of drama. But I did what I could. I am certainly not perfect, evidently short-sighted and obviously not too good with money or birth control.

It’s funny what my kids remember. Some remember raising all the kids. Some remember never getting attention, some remember getting too much attention, some remember things I would like to forget. Some, though, remember a happy childhood, things weren’t so bad. Any painful memory my kids tell me makes me feel like crap, of course. We try so hard to shield our kids from the reality of pain and hurt in this world, but it’s futile. And it’s worse when that stuff comes from someone who’s supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders. And I feel bad when my kids say I wasn’t there for them. I tried, I don’t know where else I was, besides maybe in a nearby corner with a book.  At least there was milk in the fridge.

It wasn’t all bad. There were times when we had more than enough. More than enough room, clothes and food. We don’t remember those days so much. It is easier to remember what hurt because it still hurts. Yes, there were bad days, and the worst, only a few, when there was no milk. If I didn’t have milk, there were no bottles, no pancakes, no cereal, no homemade bread. Just beans and tortillas. We always had beans. And Ricky did make delectable butter tortillas. LOL. But I know for a fact there were only about five days when there was no milk, what I mean was there was no money for milk. No milk money. During this hard, hard time, God providentially supplied our milk needs. The pastor’s wife worked for OUSD, and would often bring crates of surplus little milk containers, she kindly gave them to me. That held us over for a while.

Five days in 30 years, not too bad. I also tried to provide a different kind of milk. I tried to be kind. I tried to teach kindness. The milk of human kindness has all sorts of nutrients. I hope they got some of that nourishment.

I’m loving those “humankindness” commercials, the one with the pony and the other with the little fella trying to blow out his first year’s candle. That’s what I wanted to provide in addition to all the things the kids needed physically. Kindness is a quality that only compounds with its usage. Once it is firmly rooted in one’s heart, it only needs exercise to grow.

Kindness is balm for the soul. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It is powerful. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” I guess we don’t remember those times. I need to do better.

I am going to try to underscore those things, the kindnesses given to me. I will always remember the sweet texts my sons have sent me off the cuff. I’ll remember when my girls cleaned up without asking. I’ll remember when my friend gave me and my kids boxes of things we needed. I’ll remember when family paid for my kids’ schooling, housed us, helped in emergencies, all without complaint. When I remember these kindnesses, my heart is soothed. I guess it takes awhile to not only practice kindness, but also to remember those gifts we’ve received.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
~William Shakespeare,
Merchant of Venice (Willie Wonka)

 

 

 

Random Words of Kindness

Kindness

Originally printed in February 2011

Valentine’s Day is Sunday. Isn’t that a great holiday? A holiday dedicated to showing our loved ones how much they mean to us. We have St. Valentine, an early Christian martyr, to thank for it. His letter to a young girl, before he was executed, is one of the alleged origins of this day. Valentine’s Day, now, for the most part, is a lovers’ day.

That’s nice, if you have a partner. The point of this column, though, is not lovers’ love, but friend love, family love, or just general love. Love expressed in kind words.

Years ago, I used to attend a little prayer meeting with some other parents from the school my kids were attending at the time. I couldn’t make it to one of the meetings and had texted my friend telling her why I couldn’t make it. She texted back, “OK, sweetness.” Wow, I thought at the time, isn’t that nice! I texted her back and told her I love it when she talks like that.

Another instance around the same time, at the Canned Food Store in Redwood City, we were waiting in line, and a clerk opened up her window, and said to me, “I can take you over here, honey.” I just lit up. I love when folks talk to me like that. Don’t you?

I love these terms of endearment; but unfortunately, I do not use them as often as I should, or as often as I’d like.

My friend, the store clerk and many others I continually come in contact with are steeped in this kind of kindness, and not only are their words dripping with this divine quality, but so are their mannerisms and their countenances. I have another friend who is the epitome of optimism and joy. I cannot comment on anything on Facebook or say anything that she doesn’t give me a positive and joyful response. I adore this characteristic, and this friend.

Unfortunately, growing up, these expressions didn’t flow readily. My ability to use these delightful demonstrations of affection is somewhat underdeveloped. I grew up in a household where profanity was the vernacular and “survival of the fittest” was the motto. No meek shall inherit the earth, no turning the other cheek or any other teaching from CCD. Sweet nothings were as foreign a language as Uzbek and crying was anathema.

So one of my Valentine’s Day resolutions will be to be more affectionate with my kids, my family and my friends, even to be affectionate and kind to some of the scurrilous among us. Now, this is hard and uncomfortable because I’m not use to it, but I’ll try.

For my friends, the store clerk and the others I have met, their random words of kindness come spontaneously from within. For me, for a time, I must practice deliberate words of kindness and hope that this habit will become spontaneous too.

Remember, according to a Chinese proverb: “a bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.” Aw, sweetness!

P.S. Thank yo, Eloisa!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew..Cuthbert

matthew

Not too long ago, my little hurricanes and I watched my long lost videos of “Anne of Green Gables”. My older kids and I would often have AGG marathons. I thought they liked them like I did; however, I’ve learned otherwise.

There is something in me, deep down, that resonates with this wonderful mini-series from the ’80’s. I don’t know if it’s the luscious cinematography of Prince Edward Island, or the cute and innocent love story of Anne and Gilbert or even Anne’s transformation from a precocious girl to an accomplished young lady. Probably all three. But I think what I like the most is the character of Matthew Cuthbert and his relationship with Anne. What a kind soul! This shy, unassuming man is bowled over by the red-headed firecracker. His love permeates the entire first series of “Anne of Green Gables”. Richard Farnsworth will always be Matthew Cuthbert.

Here are a few quotes from Matthew’s “gospel”:

“You can talk all you like, I don’t mind.”

Matthew loved Anne from the get go. Anne’s nervous non-stop talking in the carriage home from the train station absolutely enchanted Matthew. His love for her emboldened him to stand up to his strong-willed sister and insist Anne stay. It is a wonderful gift when we have folks like Matthew in our lives.

Isn’t a pleasure when we meet someone who just listens to us, who is truly interested in what we have to say, even if it’s things we’ve talked about over and over again. When I was going through a sad divorce, and I thought I would never get through the emotional devastation, there were a couple of folks who would listen over and over again; always encouraging me, always listening when I know they had other things to do. Often, I fall short of this quality, but I am trying to be more attentive to what someone is saying rather than in crafting a response.

“We might be of some good to her.”

This is his answer to Merilla’s pronouncement that Anne would be of no use to them. This sweet, old bachelor persuades his spinster sister in keeping orphan Anne despite her not being a boy. Over time his sweetness rubs off on Merilla as when Anne leaves for school and the train pulls away, “He knew we needed her.” Kindness and tenderness as exhibited in this character cannot help but produce good in and to its recipients. Even amidst the turbulence of teenage tumults of child rearing, a little shot of kindness and consideration helps still the stormy seas.

“I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.”

 Matthew utters these last poignant words to the weeping Anne as he slowly dies in her arms. He loved her from the beginning. What a blessing and comfort for Anne in her subsequent grief. We have the power in our words to bless, even in difficult situations. But it’s not just his loving blessing to Anne, but his expression of absolute unconditional love and affection to her. He never regretted having her in his life. One of my favorite verses from Luke, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” seems to embody in this affirmation of love by Matthew to Anne. Our Father in heaven gladly gives us the kingdom, is happy we have responded to him. He has only wanted us from the first day.

“Anne of Green Gables” has not only given us a great story set against a beautiful back-drop, but also has given us wonderful characters, the whippersnapper Anne, the beloved Gil, the stern Merilla and my favorite, the winsome, kind-hearted Matthew. I hope we all memorize these words of Matthew, plant them into our hearts and pour forth their fruit to our family and friends.

Matthew-hugging-Anne-for-IMDB11