Article by Wendy McCance
I was tucking my youngest daughter into bed the other night. She started to talk about her grandfather who had passed away over a year ago. She was telling me about all the things that made her happy that she remembered. It started out with stories that made her laugh and then it became stories that really defined the character of her grandfather. We ended the conversation talking about what traits made her grandfather who he was and what she admired and loved about him.
The conversation got me thinking, when I die, what will people remember? Will they see my life the way I saw it? Will there be stories regarding my character that if I heard today I would be proud to hear? Have I done enough good to make a solid impression of having a good heart? Will my husband and children be proud of the stories told and feel lucky that I was in their life? I know that the people surrounding me love me. I know that in general people think I have a good heart. I also know that there is so much more I should be doing for others.
My most recent shameful moment happened just a few days ago. I had all the kids in the car and we were driving out of the neighborhood to run some errands. It was pouring rain and we saw an old man with a shopping cart and some bags of groceries walking down the street to his home. We have seen this man before. He seems to be a recluse. His curtains are always closed, his lawn looks like a mass of overgrown weeds and a shopping cart is always in his front yard next to his porch. He is probably in his early 80’s, hunched over and doesn’t make eye contact if you see him outside.
When we drove past, my oldest daughter said that she felt bad for him. She said he always seemed lonely and was sad that he was walking in the rain. The other two kids chimed in and agreed with the sentiment. The voice in my head said pick him up. Don’t let him walk in the rain. I have to admit that I was afraid to be kind with my kids in the car. I knew nothing about this man. He would have to sit in the back seat next to two of my kids. The conflict in my head tore me up, and still makes me feel awful.
I didn’t pick him up. I was nervous because he was a stranger. I was uncomfortable asking if he would like a ride because I didn’t know how he would respond. All day I felt so much shame for not being a better person. I felt horrible acting that way in front of my kind-hearted kids. I’m sure everything would have been okay. He was only about 2 blocks from his home and he was old and frail looking. What would he have even been able to do?
Ever since that incident, I thought about how often I put myself out there to help people I don’t know. Sure I’ll talk with someone in a grocery store and get a jar down from a high shelf for them. I’ll let someone ahead of me in line if they are panicking about being in a rush or if they only have a couple of items compared to my big load. I will wave a person into traffic when they are trying to merge. I will say something kind to someone who is obviously having a rough day.
My list of doing good is so meager. It’s embarrassing that I haven’t made bigger gestures to help and support those around me. Honestly, when I think of some of the things I would do differently, it becomes a power struggle in my head of what feels comfortable and what feels really foreign and awkward to me.
In the end though, I come back to the discussion with my daughter and the question I asked myself. How will they remember you? I want to be remembered for having a more giving, open heart. I have some work ahead of me, but I feel like I am on my way down a better path.
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