In response to a “lessons” post last month on Renée Schuls-Jacobson’s blog, I wrote about the wisdom I learned on a field trip:
I was in fourth grade, on a field trip in the mountains with our class. My mom was one of the parent chaperones. I didn’t want her there–only the “dorks” had their parents there. It was an embarrassing day made worse when the “popular boy” intentionally stepped on a banana slug in front of my mom. She had a strict “no kill unless you are going to eat it” policy in life. (Whenever possible (which was most of the time), she trapped the mice/bugs/snakes/etc. in the house and released them in the field out back.) I was standing next to my mom when the conversation went down…
Mom: Why did you just do that?
Boy: I don’t know.
Mom: You don’t know, but you did it anyway? Would you like me to come into your home and squash you?
Boy: No, I suppose not.
Mom: I didn’t think so. That was senseless and unkind. We are in their home and the creatures that live here have every right to be left alone to live as they choose, don’t you think? Since they can’t speak for themselves, I’m doing it for them. I assume I won’t see anything like that again today.
Boy: (eyes downward cast, but mocking me, I was certain!) Yes, mam.
I never heard a peep from the other kids about it, but I felt humiliated by my mom’s scolding of this boy–the boy who I dreamed about. My future as Mrs. Popular was lost, but the lesson I learned that day wasn’t: Speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves.
(Anyone who would squash a bug just for fun probably wasn’t who I wanted to spend my life with anyways.)
I’ve written often about the lessons I’ve learned from my mom, but it wasn’t until I read this guest post on Renée’s blog that I thought about the day I learned, really learned, to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves. I was grateful for the chance to revisit this memory, not just for the trip down memory lane, but for the “gut check” it offered.
Though not perfect (because no one is), my mom was an amazingly compassionate soul and particularly protective of the weak. She was a stay-at-home mom with a kitchen window that provided her the perfect vantage point to see almost all the way down the block. If there was “bullying” or unkindness of any kind going on, she knew about it and she stepped in, whether or not her kid was the perpetrator. And, the part about rescuing and releasing critters above–gospel truth. Over the years, I watched her quietly and humbly give of herself and her money, and all the while teach by example.
I’d like to hope I’ve done the same with my kids, and I’m well aware I have kids that were blessed with huge hearts that have nothing to do with me or my teaching. I think about my older daughter, C, who, at the age of 4, would immediately stop her play and greet any child that entered the McDonald’s play area to invite them to join her “so they didn’t feel left out.” Or the time when A, at the ripe age of 10, stood up alone to a table full of kids who had been teasing another group of kids in front of her. I think of the courage it took to offer those gestures, to the be the hand that reached out to help someone else and I fill with pride for my girls and am humbled by their examples of compassion.
Since the day I wrote my comment on Renée’s blog, I’ve been searching the corners of my soul, asking, “Am I helping those that have no voice when presented with the opportunity? Am I continuing to teach by example? Or, do I stand silent, grateful it’s not my problem?” I’ve noticed more often the acts of others, of my children and husband as they help those in need. I’ve pondered the actions I’ve taken to help others and wondered if there was more I could/should do. I reminded myself to always be on the look out to “practice random acts of kindness.”
My mother taught me compassion with her words and her example (with the help of a banana slug.) She was ever grateful for the life she had, and she inspired me to be a better person. I have been blessed often and inspired by the generosity and kindness of family, friends, and strangers who have helped me up more than once with an outstretched hand. I’ve been inspired by my children who have stood in defense of the bullied and the lonely. I’ve been motivated to do more by the writers I have come to know through this blog. And, I’ve been blessed by the opportunities I’ve had to help others. It feels good to help, to speak up for those that can’t speak up for themselves, to be the light in someone’s darkness. Acts of compassion truly offer their own rewards.
There are many opportunities to help those that are in need and either can’t or won’t speak up for themselves. One need only look at the headline news to read the stories of child mercenaries in Uganda or of the unemployed in our own backyards. Perhaps, there is a friend who needs groceries but can’t get out to the store, or a stranger whose path you cross on social media in need of encouragement and hope, or an in-law you lovingly welcome into your home, in spite of “the history”. Reaching out, speaking up, offering hope, are all ways we can be the voice for another in need.
Tomorrow, I will share the story of 3 fellow bloggers and their selfless gift to those with the smallest voices. In light of so much negativity on the news, it is good to be reminded of the goodness of others. I hope you’ll read.
Until then, what or who has inspired you to be a better person?