A gift my parents gave me
Same as most people, there are things I want to do just like my parents did and there are some things I’d like to do differently. A few nights ago I was reminded of something they gave us that was perhaps one of the greatest and most character shaping gifts they gave.
From an early age, before my memory even, my parents modeled a life of loving others. When I was a baby, they welcomed a Laotian refugee family into their small home and my dad lost 15 pounds eating what they ate, mostly rice. When I was an adolescent they welcomed unwed pregnant women who had no place to live and no one to support them in their choice to give life to their babies. Seeds of unselfishness and sacrifice were planted in our lives. It wasn’t perfect, one girl taught my sisters and I how to unwrap our Christmas presents so we knew what they were then how to carefully wrap them back up so no one would know! When no young mother was living with us, we hosted a Japanese exchange student and another time two twin homeless men who smelled so bad I can remember it still.
Into my early teen years just when any twelve year old is convinced that the world revolves around her and a small offense is a major infraction, my mom went back to work. She found a job in private home health nursing. She would provide care for two men with muscular dystrophy. They were twins and the youngest of 5 children.
These two men quickly became a part of our family. I honestly don’t even remember being apprehensive about their big wheel chairs, or the different way they talked or the fact that they were quadriplegics. I remember being amazed at their sense of humor, at the fact they coached adult softball games and at the way they lived life despite tremendous limitation. They let me and my 13 year old friends come play at their beautiful home and sing karaoke for HOURS. They took our whole family, my mom working for them, to Sun Valley in Idaho one summer. We sat at so many softball games where they coached from their chairs and were brimming with life and attitude.
My mom could have let it just be a job. But it wasn’t. Not for her. It was a calling on her life for a season. And we were all profoundly blessed as it unfolded.
Our mom worked for them for many years, her life, our family and Rod and Randy were all changed in the process. Eventually she was led to a new job but we have remained in touch over the years. On Wednesday, Rod and Randy took my little sister and I to a Colbie Callait concert. The concert was monumentous. Truly amazing at a small venue in Seattle. But what was more amazing to me after our night when I got home and told Christopher about the concert and tried to talk but couldn’t because I was so choked up, was the impact these two men had on our family. I really hadn’t pondered it too much before and when I did, I was overwhelmed.
Rod told me that night as we had a long time to talk before the show that he was so glad our mom had come into their life and that it was at a time that they so needed it. I simply answered, “We felt the same about you”. And that’s the truth.
My parents have lived a life of loving people-radically, extravagantly so. The way that I feel comfortable around people who are very, very different than me. The way I walk into a room and can pick out who most feels left out and who needs love. The way my heart breaks for the marginalized and less fortunate. All these things are the fruit of watching parents who weren’t afraid to generously love the people around them.
I can’t speak for my sisters but I can say at least for me that this is probably the thing I want most to do well the way they have.