“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.” ~Walt Whitman, American Poet
I have spent a lot of my life in the shadows. Not to be dramatic or anything, but really, I have. My sister and I had a hard life growing up, in many ways, and I’ve spent many years trying to overcome that. A rocky childhood left me with self-esteem-issues, with the thought that I had to be everyone’s peace-maker, and that I had to keep up a sunny facade to the outside world, no matter what I was feeling inside or going through. It was less likely that I’d walk into more trouble if I just kept back and tried to remain unnoticed.
The problem with staying back, in the shadows, is that I missed out on so many good things. I said no to trips to the beach with friends, amusement park rides, big birthday trips with other women who I thought I didn’t fit in with, and I stayed at home, instead. There’s nothing wrong with home. It’s safe.
What’s really bad, though, is not just that I missed out on fun times building relationships with other people, but also that I missed out on helping and giving to other people. I was staying home, being safe! I didn’t have to risk anything by saying “yes” that way.
My life has changed drastically in the last four years. I won’t go into details of that here, but suffice it to say that I am learning to stop thinking so much about myself and my inadequacies, and to think more about what/whom I can be involved with. A recent opportunity came my way that I have been tweeting and Facebooking (that is a verb now, isn’t it?) about. ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to my small town!
There is a family in my town by the name of Carr. The couple have adopted four children, two of whom have had amputated limbs and other health problems. The father himself has battled cancer and has had organ transplants. Their home was small, leaky, moldy, and poorly wired. They needed more space for the children to move around safely. The Home Makeover team deemed them deserving, and headed to Mineola to bless them.
Extreme Home Makeover builds are hugely dependent upon locals to do the work. The stars do come to the site, meet the family, do some planning and designing, and a bit of hands on work. However, 90% of the real work is done by the family’s community! (That’s a guesstimate, by the way.) Our local ABC affiliate, KLTV 7, would put out a call each night on the news to tell the viewers in the area what skilled laborers were needed at that moment; sometimes stucco professionals, sometimes stonemasons, sometimes painters, etc. The community would rally and people would show up to volunteer their time and talents for the cause. I loved it!
I am not a skilled laborer. You guys know I pretty much bake and cook and read and write. So when it was my turn to volunteer, I was in the food tent! 🙂 I worked for my friend Carrie who owns Nutty’s Peanut Butter with her husband, Keith. I spent a day feeding hungry construction workers, hole diggers, fence builders, and even some of the crew from California, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! To do this I had to be friendly, outgoing, encouraging, and enthusiastic, which I chose to be. It was easy, in a place where there was such a spirit of unity and goodwill. I had my picture taken with some people, was flirted with by some goofy fence dudes (Katie, not a word!) and even was able to walk through the amazing home with my friend Korlyn. I didn’t work on the house, but I fueled the people up who did! 🙂 What a lovely experience.
The point is that five years ago, I would not have been there. I’d have been here at home, watching it on t.v. I wouldn’t have dreamed of setting foot there, where so many strangers were gathering and where I was unsure of what might happen or who might be unkind to me or make me feel unwelcome. I was an observer only.
I am thankful for the changes in my life that are allowing me to say “yes” more often. I want that “my very flesh should become a poem,” as Whitman said. I want to be glad of my life. God didn’t give it to me to spend it sitting on a couch, watching other people live it out. I’m focusing on really living my life from now until it’s over! Are you?
“Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.”
Henry Van Dyke