You have no clue how much people care for you
I was walking home the other day thinking about what I should make for dinner. I wasn't feeling particularly energetic, I knew I only had healthy stuff at home, and frankly, I just wanted something quick, delicious and not healthy. For some reason, sloppy joes came to mind. I really didn't want sloppy joes. I've actually never really enjoyed them, but they came to mind none-the-less. My mom used to make them for us when we were growing up. If you've never had them, they're essentially a thick, meaty stew atop bread or buns. They've never been my favourite, but they're a quick, rather inexpensive meal.
It got me thinking about why my mom would choose such a dinner. She worked very hard. Like many moms these days, she worked full-time (sometimes with one or even 2 side jobs) and she did all of the house work: laundry, cooking, cleaning, meal planning, grocery shopping. She did it all.
We were never that well-off financially, so I can't imagine she had an expansive grocery budget, yet we were always fed. She didn't have a lot of time, as mentioned, but she always made the time to make meals, prepare lunches and ensure we were all taken care of. I can't recall having to eat a lot of food that I didn't like, so among the restraints of time and money, she even found a way to ensure that she prepared and served food the rest of the family enjoyed. I remember she'd even buy me tuna on occasion, even though the smell of fish completely repulsed her.
And as I walked home, remembering all of these details, I just started to cry. The gratitude just welled up inside me and I was totally overwhelmed by just how hard my mom worked, just how diligent and relentless she was in the small, everyday, incessant tasks required to raise a family. I could only bring myself to think about the meal-planning aspect. I knew if I really started thinking on all of the ways she helped me, that my heart would probably explode and I'd become one giant balling mess of a woman, breaking down on the sidewalk right out in public. It would just be weird.
But it did help me put my life in perspective a little bit. As a single girl only responsible for taking care of myself, let me tell you: raising a family is hard work! I know that I don't have any clue. I acknowledge that. But in that moment, I started to see just how strong my mother is. I won't even muster the energy to make my own supper tonight, yet she did every day. She still does. She makes supper for my grown brother on Sundays. She invites friends who don't have family. And she always hosts holiday suppers.
What truly touched me is that she put all of her own feelings and needs aside just to take care of ours. That, I think, is the hardest thing any human being can do.
The second hardest is not believing the lies we're all sucked into every day, lies like nobody cares for us, lies like we do more for others than they do for us.
The truth is that you'll never have any idea what you mean to people or how your efforts have impacted them. And it's not because those efforts are negligible, but because people, we as recipients of that blessing, just never take the time to realize it. We can't really understand what you've been through. We can't travel your journey while we're so busy taking our own. We generally don't have time to reflect on it all, to put ourselves in your shoes, to imagine all of the challenges you must be facing, and to pretend to know how difficult your life might or might not be at the moment. We have no idea.
But don't be discouraged. Just know that even if you never hear it, even if it goes completely unnoticed, your presence makes a difference to someone. That doesn't mean I think we should all become lazy and complacent. Not at all! In fact, after realizing how little appreciation I've given to the woman who has given me so much, I think we should all redouble our efforts to acknowledge those who impact our lives.
Perhaps the biggest difference you can make in someone's life is to identify the value they've created for you and then simply thank them for it. We may never be able to repay the time, energy, money or other resources they've shared to help us out, but there is a certain intangible value in having someone realize that you gave something up for them, you sacrificed in some way for their benefit, and then saying thanks.
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