I first read this quote years ago in the email signature of one of my daughter’s teachers.
It reassured me to know that my daughter was spending some of her days with a person with that kind of mindfulness. He was wasn’t working for himself; he was working for the children. Every day he was carving his name on students’ hearts, so he’d better make it good.
Today, you will carve your name on someone’s heart. What indelible impression will you leave?
The first time I saw my friend Maryanne, she and her eighteen-month-old son were building houses out of sand in the shade of a play structure in our neighbourhood park. Seated side by side, they packed sand into plastic containers and constructed houses of all shapes and sizes.
I played with my own eighteen-month-old daughter nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation.
“What kind of house do you want to build next?” she asked.
“A bungalow,” her son said.
WOW. What toddler knows the word bungalow? And who was this Wonder Of Women with him?
Over the twenty-three years of our friendship (both those children are now almost twenty-five), I have said WOW about Maryanne many times. She has other exceptional qualities besides an advanced vocabulary and a knack for creative story building.
She celebrated her 60th birthday on the weekend and the occasion caused me to reflect on her WOW qualities.
GENEROSITY – I have been at her house to see her open her door wide to people in need. No matter if an arrival is unannounced or if it means re-evaluating food supplies or sleeping arrangements, she accommodates with grace and dignity. It is a gift rarer than the finest diamonds.
SELF-WITNESS – She has the ability to rise above herself, look down and sort life out from a higher perspective. This skill has led her to success in business and helped her to overcome tragic loss.
INTUITION – She seems to reach through the veil of the universe. She just knows things. Sometimes I have to do a double-take after hearing her insights.
LAUGHTER – She is fun. We laugh together a lot.
Her generosity means that saying “No” does not come naturally, but her self-witness is telling her that sometimes that’s exactly what she needs to start saying. She’s learning to listen to her intuition and to choose what serves her and what does not. Which activities, causes or people should she say no to because they drain her without ever giving back? Which activities, causes or people energize her or bring her laughter?
Maryanne is ever-evolving and choosinghow to spend her time and with whom to spend that time. Like Pokemon’s Pikachu saying “I choose you!”
I will be sixty in a few years too, so I’m also am developing the steely inner resolve that comes with the wisdom of age. I am more discerning about how I spend my days, and with whom. I am drawing firm boundaries around demands on my time. One thing I know: Time spent with Maryanne is time well spent. I choose her!
She inspires me to be a better person. I’m not Maryanne’s best friend, but I aim to be the best friend for her in certain circumstances. I hope I refill her well in some way and bring her laughter.
On her 60th birthday I asked myself, “What gift could I give to such a WOW person?” The only thing I could think of was to let her know this:
During the open mic session on Friday night, Jean Kay of Poetry to Inspire told a story that showed how simple gifts can ripple out and multiply in ways we never anticipate.
Every morning as part of a meditation practice, Jean writes a poem. She has published her poems in books, she writes poems for special occasions, and she sells printed copies of special prayers, like this “Prayer of Thanks.”
Recently Jean was selling her work from a booth at a promotional event. A woman picked up a “Prayer of Thanks” card. “I have been saying this prayer every morning for thirty years,” she said.
Startled, Jean took a closer look. The woman—96 years old that day at the booth—was a former co-worker that Jean hadn’t seen since she presented a copy of the poem at her retirement party thirty years ago.
The woman had gone home after the party, stuck the card in the corner of her mirror and recited it every day since. Jean had no idea that her work, her thoughts and her words had been rippling steadily through all those decades.
That retirement story reminded me of another friend’s recent retirement.
My friend, Brian, retired a few weeks ago after being a United Church minister for forty years. At his final service many of the people whose lives he had touched showed up to support him and to let him know how deeply his work, his thought and his words had affected them.
In his final sermon he referenced the story of the loaves and the fishes. He had started in ministry with only simple gifts to offer. Like the loaves and the fishes, they seemed like they’d never be enough. But with time and grace, his simple gifts were enough. They more than enough. He “fed the throngs” and has leftovers besides.
Simple gifts are all any of us have to offer. They might seem like they’re not enough. But a prayer of thanks, support through grief, kind words, belly laughs . . . they ripple out over the decades.
Those simple gifts are more than enough, with leftovers besides.