Our Actions Will Tell Our Story Better Than Our Words
This week's blog is dedicated to my mom; a rare woman who exemplifies empathy and compassion in a world where those things can feel hard to come by at times.
When you look around the world right now it is normal to feel overwhelmed by anxiety, sadness and uncertainty. It can also become a time we shy away from other people’s pain and experiences, in part, because we are trying to protect ourselves, fearing it will all be too much for us to handle. With Mother’s Day approaching I am reminded that the greatest gift my mom has ever given me has never been in the form of material things or words, but rather it has been her actions. She has defied most people’s instinct to sink in to solitude during difficult times and instead she leans in to, and gives worth to, other’s pain.
I was raised by a sensitive, empathetic woman, who cannot help but sit in, and through, other people’s pain. My mom has been told her whole life that she is ‘too sensitive’ but maybe she is the rare type of person who can see the world for what it is, for what it lacks, and what it needs most. The truth is the world needs people like her, the ones who make us examine more closely and feel more deeply all the things most of our brains let us quickly move beyond to protect ourselves.
I want to share with you ways that she has lived love out loud, in doing so my hope is that her example will stir change, no matter how big or small, in all of us:
There Are No Strangers:
My mom has never met a stranger; my whole life she has walked up to people she doesn’t know in the grocery store or other public spaces because she has ‘a sense’ about them. Then ten minutes later you will look over and they are crying and hugging because that person really needed someone to talk to or needed help but was too afraid to ask. She opens her arms (figuratively and metaphorically) to anyone without ever second guessing it or asking what that person can do for her.
What would it look like if we also had ‘open arms’? If we learned to take the focus off of ourselves for a few moments each day, looked around, and identified people who may need our help, even those we have never met. More often than not people just need someone to bear witness to their needs and acknowledge that their pain and their feelings are valid. When we see a ‘neighbor’ rather than a stranger in each person we come in contact with we become better equipped to do this.
Small Things = Big Joy:
My mom always wants a Coke (or Pepsi) with an orange slice. She is thrilled when you ask her to stay up late and watch a movie, and if she gets to have popcorn and a soda, well you will feel like you handed her a million bucks. The thing is she doesn’t need a lot, she never has. She finds excitement in all of life’s little things. Your desire to want to spend time with her is what makes her happy. When I was little we never had much money but I remember she would take us for special treats, like an ice cream cone, or a late night car ride, and those are some of my favorite memories. She has a way of always making the small things seem big, turning every outing in to an adventure, and in turn making you feel like you gave her the world, simply by giving her your time.
What if we could do this too? What if we could find joy in the small moments? What if we started valuing someone’s willingness to give us their time above all else, especially considering that is the only gift any of us have to give with immeasurable value? This moment in time seems to be forcing us to see that our lives and our joy are actually built in the small moments, and the time we spend with people is more important than we ever knew. Hopefully we don’t just know this now and forget it when life goes back to ‘normal’, instead let’s make this a part of the very fiber of our being like my mom does.
Empathy without Bounds:
I have often wondered how my mom survives being so empathetic. It is as if her soul connects to other people and latches on to their pain. It is not enough for her to just acknowledge someone else’s struggle but requires her to feel it as well. She will be up nights praying, crying, and sending notes and texts of encouragement (even when you can’t decipher all the emoji). It can be difficult for her to feel this deeply, but it is also one of the most significant things she has given me, to see love lived out loud with no boundaries.
Empathy has been the greatest gift and curse for my mom and one she has bestowed upon me. It isn’t easy to understand and share the feelings of others, but I believe it is the only way to get to a place where more voices are heard and more people are treated with respect. My mom’s empathy reminds us that we must not sink in to our solitude. Instead, we must learn to value other people’s experiences and lives as much as we value those we know, we must believe that all pain and joy is important, and that all lives are significant and deserve to be seen and heard.
Give without Receiving:
We never had very much money but that never stopped my mom from giving. Giving to others with no expectations of anything in return. Giving to others without judgment or questions about why they are in a place of need. Giving to others even when she had so little herself. Her selflessness is ingrained in my heart. Her and my dad’s ability to always teach us the importance of giving back, not just financially but with our time, to have generous hearts, was never taught through their words but always through their actions.
Here is what I know to be true because of my mom’s (and my dad’s) example of generosity: You give because it is the right thing to do. You do it because something tugs on your heart strings and you desire to step in and fill a need. You do it because YOU KNOW there have been times in your life, at your weakest points, that someone came beside you and gave generously of their heart, time, love, or resources and helped raise you up.
I think too often we judge people’s lives in all the wrong ways, we try to make it about accomplishments or wealth accumulation, but my mom teaches us we will be remembered for the imprint we leave on other people’s hearts. We don’t ask often enough how kind someone was or how generous they were. We don’t give awards out to people who give all of their heart and soul to others. We don’t salute those who teach us that joy can be found in even the smallest moments. But the world has shifted, it is reminding us that so many people we didn’t treat as essential actually are, and that so much of what we thought mattered really doesn’t. We are learning that some of the most influential and important people in our lives will rarely stand in the spotlight rather will shine their light on to others.
In the end, I hope that my mom reminds us of this important truth; the way we live our lives will tell our story better than our words ever can.