Simple Gifts

02 March 2014

Here we are squeaking in under the wire on the 7 in 7 challenge. 11:55pm. I feel like I'm writing a paper for college or something. Well get ready. Apparently deadlines make me corny. And no pictures because...11:56

A few weeks ago Jacob and I were at church with our minions. As usual we shuffled in a couple minutes late and thus found ourselves haunting a back pew. It was kind of an early Mass since Jacob's been working Sunday afternoons we've been going kind of early. We settled into our Mass rhythm as parents of little people. The baby was on my lap bobbling her head around, and the toddler was jungle gyming around the pew always within arm's reach of his father. They're pretty good in Mass at this stage. They mostly stay quiet and smile at the people around us, and I can kind of even have a prayerful experience.

This particular Sunday we sat behind an elderly couple. A very elderly couple actually. Lucy June was enamored by the cardinals painted on the woman's light blue cardigan. The husband's dark pants and coat hung loosely on his withering frame. Together he and his wife made the routine motions of Mass look strenuous. Close to the couple sat their daughter who was probably about sixty and also sporting a painted cardigan. I thought about the stage of life the couple was in, about how dependent they were. Their daughter had probably driven them to Mass. They were too slow to amble down the aisle for communion, so the bread was brought to them. Someone probably brings them groceries. They needed help to accomplish even small things in life. So much help.

Kind of like me.

As a still relatively new and relatively clueless mother of young children, I need help. I need help taking my groceries to the car. I need help to go to the dentist or clean the house or take a shower. I need help by way of expert advice and encouraging words and down time. I just need help. And, honestly, people are pretty helpful. But I hate needing help. I don't want to need help; I want to be a helper. I serve my children the live long day (and night) but my helpfulness rarely extends beyond my front door. I thought about this couple and the aging process that makes you more needy. I thought about how everyone has to eventually make peace with needing help. I wondered if it had been a struggle for them. I wondered how long they'd fought before they let their daughter drive them places or before they'd stopped trekking the aisle for communion.

By the eucharistic prayer, I was beginning to feel right sorry for all of us.

During the sign of peace the couple turned to offer us their hands, and they were so delighted to
interact with the children. I pointed Lucy June at them and she gave them a gummy juicy smile, and Jake shook their hands vigorously. And I remembered something, something not brilliant, but something important: I could give this. I could afford people glimpses of my children. Even though I'm still learning this whole motherhood thing and most days my orbit is all snotty noses and shoelaces, I had brought these children here today and they were bringing people joy.

As the service continued, I found myself comforted by this little reminder, encouraged, revitalized, happy for the little extra I'd been able to give that day.

Then I watched as the elderly man took his wife's hand. 

And my breath stuck in my throat. This longstanding love. The lady in the cardinal-print cardigan and her aged husband. The decades upon decades of simple gestures.

I cried through the rest of Mass.

I'm sure they had no idea of the beautiful gift they had given me.


  1. Beautiful post! I've loved reading your blog this week :-)

  2. Beautiful post! Thank you for inspiring me to think about how I can best be of service to those around me ( and for inspiring me to join the 7 in 7 challenge).

  3. Lovely post. I can relate to this feeling; as a mother of five, I've always been so blessed by those who have encouraged and extended a helping hand. Your season for helping others will come...

  4. This is just beautiful!!

    (and I think it's something about Lucy June's Baptism that has made me extra sentimental, but it's a super nice change from my usual attitude of bad, so I'm veryvery grateful to have been able to witness it all yesterday ;)

  5. This was lovely, Kate. I had to learn some lessons about accepting help the hard way a few years ago. My husband was deployed for the 2nd time in two years - this time when we had 4 kids, one of whom was a two week old infant. And he left for 9 months. I had no choice but to ask for help and lots of it. But part of that was letting people help me. Everyone wanted to - but I was so independent and so focused on not being able to "pay people back", that I had to step back and finally realize that I needed to LET them help me. Because accepting help from someone with no strings attached is a gift in itself. You are giving someone the gift of being generous. You're giving someone the gift of allowing them to serve someone in need. And that is a wonderful thing. Right now, I'm providing a lot of help to a friend who needs help with her kids because some things in her life are temporarily topsy-turvy, and she just needs lots of help. It's little thing like picking people up from school, etc. But it makes a big difference to her. In the beginning, she kept telling me she felt bad because she didn't know how she would ever repay me - so I told her that this was my chance to "repay" all the people that helped me when I needed it, and someday she would have someone else in need and she could be generous and help them. And someday, you'll be in a place to be able to help someone else - but let those people in your life have the gift of serving you now, when you need it.

  6. You're a wonderful writer. Made me cry.

  7. This is so sweet and such a good reminder that it is an equal blessing to be served and to be a of service. You're writing is lovely and you are able to express so clearly the struggles and successes of motherhood.

  8. I loved this Kate. Simple reminders. x


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