mum's rants

Philanthropy and Giving

In a couple of books I have been enjoying (Walden and Anna Karenina) benevolence is looked at with question or down right negativity.
In Walden, Thoreau writes about ‘goodness tainted’. He also states,

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the constant design of doing me good, I would run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts”.

What do I do with that? Perhaps I am one of those people he is running away from. We like to ‘help’

When a gift is given, too many times there is an exchange. “I give you money and you give me your self-respect.” Of course, it would never be put so blatantly in words but is far too commonplace in action.

I met a farmer about a month ago who talked about getting government assistance if they were in trouble. He said, “We farmers are a proud lot. We would rather starve to death than get help from the government.” Granted, the man was a bit of an anarchist and recommended someone who could fashion an illegal gun for me rather than waiting to get my license. That is another issue. Was it really pride he is speaking about or self-respect.
Giving your own self-respect over to the gift-giver is a common part of receiving a gift. I have witnessed it so many times. We have all seen it. The spotlight is on the great and almighty gift-giver. The recipient bows their head acknowledging and giving gratitude, honour and their own self- respect to the gift-giver. Everyone applauds the gift-giver. Later, when the recipient has no self-respect to provide for their own needs in the future they are seen as lazy and unworthy of the original gift. Could this be part of what is going on in Africa?
Once a person, or people, has given over too much of their selfrespect they are robbed of a way to look after themselves and become dependant on the gift-giver or other gift givers to continue to provide for them.
I have also seen it done right. Most of the time the gift is never even asked for. The recipient bows their head acknowledging and giving gratitude, honour and their own self-respect to the gift-giver. The gift-giver raises the head of the recipient and returns the honour and self-respect. They acknowledge, with full hearts, the worthiness of the recipient. The honour and self-respect seem to multiply. It is enough for both the giver and the recipient. Then it is enough for all who witness.
Sometimes the gift-giver remains anonymous and all this is done in ways you can feel the spirit of it but not see it. Like the wind that excites and wakens you or the rays of the sun that warms deeply. The gift continues.
Is this what it means when at least one wise book says that we can do all sorts of great things but if we don’t have love it is nothing. Is this why some great givers in history become so etched in our minds. Because of their love? I mean if you love someone how could you rob them of something so essential as self-respect.
Dang I probably really sound like a hippy now. Anyway, lots more thinking to do in this area. Where is my heart when I give? Am I taking something in the process that I should be returning? So much more to think about so that I can do better. Well, this is a beginning. What fun.

mum's rants New Zealand

Service, Love and Imperfection

Getting ready to leave another friends house today. Well, their “bach” (holiday home) actually. We have been away from our truck since mid September. We have been staying with alot of friends, new and old, since we left our truck so very, very long ago.

We are here at the bach by ourselves right now. We stayed with the owner before “Parachute” and she came here for the weekend. The rest of the time we were by ourselves. We really needed this time by ourselves.

It has been a great time. I think the highlight was walking out to an island at low tide. The waves came from 2 different angles as it went around the water in the waist high water. idyllic.

As I work in the kitchen and clean the house I go through the same thing I normally go through.

Am I cleaning up enough. Can I see more dirt that I am missing. You see part of being hosted by this is wanting to give back. I want to leave a gift but so many times I feel like the best gift is service. I think of friends who have stayed with us. We love it when Cindy comes to stay with us. She has stayed with us often but never enough. When she stays with us I wouldn’t wash a single dish. She didn’t make a big deal of it. It was like there was a dish fairy in residence. Wonderful!. Robbie stayed with us and noticed that a small piece was missing on our dishwasher (oh the days of the dishwasher). He walked down the street, bought the part and fixed our dishwasher. Just like that. I tell you, that has been years and it still puts a smile on my face.

Back to my cleaning. I want to do that. I want to put smiles on faces. I want to bless. I think cleaning and fixing up are good ways to bless.

Andrew has done work on fixing up some window frames. He has been filling and sanding and painting. That is really good.

I will clean. I am cleaning.

Darn, those stains aren’t coming off the window frame. Were they here before or did we put them there.

Some dried up veg bits in the bottom of the fridge. Great, I know we didn’t leave them there so that means we will leave that part looking better. Blessing.

What am I missing? I know that I will leave some things looking worse. Not from laziness or inconsideration but out of imperfection. I am quite aware of my imperfection right now. If I can leave some things that I see better then it will overshadow the things that I miss.

I think about Amelia Bedelia. TJ loves that book. All my girls love that book. She is a terrible housekeeper like me. She messes up everything but she bakes really good so everybody forgives her.

I think about relationships. I think about how so many people that have been together for a long time see the imperfect. When they meet we don’t see the imperfect. That part takes time. The imperfect glares in ex-husbands and ex-wives. Not that I have experience with that, just an observation. Same person they were dancing in the moonlight with and then, BOOM, he is the devil incarnate.

What about love. Maybe that is part of the whole picture. We are all imperfect. What allows others to see the missing dirt in the corner or the painted windowsill in the back is the filter of love. It is like tasting Amelia Bedelia’s pie and completely forgetting about the best towels that were changed (changed by being cut into bits). Love is the pie.

mum's rants USA

Dancing Skeleton’s at the Christmas Table

It is early Christmas morning. I am the only one awake. We have been having such a great time with my family. The month has just raced by. You know, we haven’t gone back home for Christmas in America for 10 years. The last time the kids have been back was about 5 years ago. Yeah, I know, we should come back more.

So, I watched the sun come up, laying on the floor with my family in my dad’s study. Thinking about the talks, family dynamics and the individuals. We are quite a diverse lot. I am the oldest of 4 kids. We have gone on to collectively bring 16 grandkids into the family. I want to go off into multiple tangents of wonderful and serendipidus experiences at this point but I am determined to stay on target so I can get breakfast started.

This is my thought.

At these family gathering points we contemplate family history.

We laugh and play.

We reminise and cry.

We give and receive lots of hugs and kisses.

At least in my family.

Inevitably skeletons come out to play with us. You know those skeletons most families keep shoved in the closet. Well, ours seem to like to come out and dance on the table. Some seem scandalous to us and we have a childlike giggle. We like to think of it as a knowing smirk but it always becomes a childlike giggle.

Some skeletons make us want to cry. Some make us angry.

It is the angry part that woke me up early this Christmas morning. We have a choice you know.

One of the biggest wounds in our family happened about 25 years ago. We have talked in detail about where we were and how we have reacted. The wounds still seem so fresh.

If we allow the anger to continually visit the fountain of youth we give it power over us. Power to control our lives and our destiny.

The deal is, if we are completely honest, we get angry because love has made us vulnerable.

I choose love and a life of trying to live in that love rather than to live a life of bitterness and anger.