Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homemaking Tip – Just a Little Thing

Once I saw myself quoted in a magazine. Me, quoted in a magazine. A former student said he had made a decision based on something I had said. Whoosh. Knock me over with a feather.  I never knew. He is a good young man and I am not surprised that he has accomplished good things; I was just surprised to hear that something I said made a difference when it needed to.

The day after I read my quote, I read this: “We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do . . . You may never know how much good you accomplish. ” (Gordon B. Hinckley) Still a bit stunned that something I had casually mentioned was quote worthy, I thought of three people who had made a difference to me. I wonder if they had any clue.

Mr. Wilson. I doubt Mr. Wilson thought he was anything out of the ordinary. He was a normal high school history and government teacher. He had a lock of curly hair that stood up at the crown of his head. He wore striped baby-blue and white pants. He kept both hands on his hips when he lectured. He blinked fast. He converted me to history and government.

Until that time, history was a grind and I showed my ignorance by thinking, “Why does history matter? It’s over. Done. The future is what we should study.” I didn’t realize we could see the future mirrored in the past, but Mr. Wilson did. He told us fascinating events and how they corresponded to our day. He taught us the ins-and-outs of government. He drove me to Boise to participate in a mock legislative session. We sat in the congressmen’s seats and pushed their buttons to vote. There I began to understand the complications of working with people with different agendas and how difficult it is to come to a consensus. I saw amateur politicians hedge and compromise.

I’m certain Mr. Wilson doesn’t know that I am passionate about history or that I will forever be interested in politics because he made them real. Mr. Wilson opened the door so that other teachers and literature could march in and continue teaching me. Mr. Wilson made a difference.

Vera Ward. She was a youth leader at church. She expected me to be a good example. She expected me to do my best and help the other girls my age.

After one meeting Vera asked me to say the closing prayer. We had visitors. Important visitors. For some reason, known only to silly fifteen year olds, I barely got the opening line of the prayer said when I started laughing. Hard. I could not stop. Soon other girls, eyes closed and heads bowed, were laughing. After several attempts, I quit trying to pray and sat down still giggling. The important visitor frowned, willing us to reverence. But Vera never even looked at me crossly or singled me out or shamed me. She never even addressed the situation or corrected me. She knew I knew better so she just carried on patiently. I made her look bad, but somehow she knew I was more important than her appearance. I will never forget her and her patience and understanding because Vera Ward made a difference.

Emma Henstock. Emma’s husband, Dude, lived in a rest home when she broke her leg and needed someone to stay with her. I was twelve. Mostly my job was to watch Lawrence Welk with her, do the dishes, water her African violets, switch the laundry and listen to her stories. Occasionally she asked me to bake cookies or walk to the grocery store. She only broke her leg once, but she also had hip surgery, knee and heart problems, and sometimes she was just lonely so I stayed with her many weeks over the years.

Emma’s impact was subtle. For one thing, she taught me to listen. For hours she talked about her trips, brothers, sisters-in-law and community folk (she ran the local grocery store for fifty years). She also taught me to mind my p’s and q’s.

Emma told me of one lady in our community who was not tidy. Emma and Dude wondered why this lady kept buying dishes from their store. They thought that maybe she gave them as wedding gifts until one day the woman asked Dude to come and fix her pipes. (Dude was a fix-it man as well as grocer, mechanic and justice-of-the-peace.) When Dude went down into this woman’s basement he found galvanized tubs full of dirty, moldy dishes. Before the days of paper plates, this woman simply bought more when hers were dirty. Dude went back to their store and took all the new dishes off the shelves and never sold another set. Emma told me that story many, many times and it taught me two things: you can’t hide your dirt and above all else,  do your dishes.

We are impacted for good by others and then, whether we know it or not, others’ lives are blessed by our efforts. Doubts minimize our influence, while recognizing we have an impact regardless gives added incentive for us to make it a positive difference. I should live each day as if I expect to make a difference in someone’s life. Emma, Vera, Mr. Wilson - my life was blessed by their efforts and others like them, so really it was them the young man quoted. I just passed it on.

Tip: Never underestimate the good a little thing can do.

 Many times I'll think of someone that could use a quick visit and a little surprise, but by the time I get the little surprise organized it's become a major event and I don't do it. However, just by keeping a little baggie in the car filled with a few tags, a pair of scissors, a marking pen, and some jute (baker's twine or ribbon), it makes giving doable.  When the idea comes, just pick up a bag of dollar store candy, add the tag, and drop it off on the way home.  It's just a little thing . . . 

Who or what little thing has made a difference in your life?


Derek-Jenny-Kaitlynd-Ethan-Dylan said...

I am so appreciative of all my influences.
I love looking back and realizing how wonderful they were and are. Now, I try to very hard to be like them!

I love the tag and string idea. It just might make me a better person! Thank you!

Becky said...

What a great idea to make service that much easier!

I have had many great 9th grad honors English teacher, the Institute teacher who trained me when I served on Institute Council years ago, and more.

Thanks for the reminder to quit wasting time thinking poorly of ourselves and to just go out and do good. I appreciate YOUR influence, Jane :)

michelle said...

I'm sure I have had many good influences, but the ones that come most readily to mind are the ones in my own family.

I'm tickled that Dude stopped selling dishes so that he would not enable that woman to be a hoarder. Yikes!

I really love the idea of making it quick and easy to drop off a little something. I am guilty far too often of making something into a big production and then not doing anything at all...

Ande Payne said...

Aw Mom, thanks for writing this for me. You're right. And you are very good at being the little thing to people. I love you.

P.S. my verification word was "tradition." Tradition. Tradition!

Deidra said...

I learned the hard way and now stock some plain note cards in the trunk. I never know when I might need some! Like last week, when my companion and I dropped off treats. We should have known that the 75 year old we visit would be gone. It was 4:00-- she was at Golden Corral, just like every other day but Sunday. My companion was driving, so we didn't have anything to leave her a note on. Sunday I finally got to tell her they were treats and not tricks. She confessed she hadn't eaten them yet because she didn't know who they were from.

I still have a few high school teachers I've kept in touch with. Thank goodness for adults keeping my teen self on the straight and narrow!