I was at a church function last Saturday, chatting with the guest speaker and her mother, and I noticed that the older woman was making several trips to the dessert table. It was laden with everything you’d expect to see at a church potluck: banana pudding, pound cake, homemade cookies, fudge brownies, and Rice Krispies treats. I figured she just had a sweet tooth and commented on it after she returned with yet another plate of goodies.
“Oh, I don’t really even like sweets,” she said, before putting a key lime cookie to her mouth and taking a small bite.
I must have looked totally confused because she laughed and explained. “I’ve been a pastor’s wife for a long time, and I’ve been to more of these events than I can count. I know that every one of those dishes represents someone’s hard work and time. I would hate for something to go uneaten, for the person who made the dish to feel like their labor wasn’t appreciated or liked.”
I smiled and said something innocuous, and the conversation continued. However, I’m still thinking about that simple act of kindness. In a world where people take first and ask questions later, it’s downright radical to be on the lookout for things like that and to sacrifice eating something you really like (or partaking in something you don’t) just to make sure that someone doesn’t feel left out.
When you live with MS, more often than not, you deal with someone’s ire rather than their better nature. Maybe you moved too slowly for someone’s liking, or perhaps you are judged for using a handicapped space. Maybe someone doesn’t understand your struggles with fatigue or brain fog and is angry because you had to fink on a social engagement. Sure, there are many kind people out there, too, but an invisible disease makes you a little different, and oftentimes, people don’t want to deal with something (or someone) different. It just requires too much effort.
The experience with that sweet mother made me wonder two things: First, have people been doing similar things for me without my notice? And second, how can I do something like that for people in my sphere of influence?
I think back to my grandfather, who died of Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. He and my grandmother loved Chex Mix and often nibbled on it when they watched movies at night. My grandmother preferred the Chex pieces and little breadsticks over the pretzels and rye chips. She’d eat just the things she liked. My grandfather, however, ate the two things she didn’t. Then they’d switch bowls. That, ladies and gents, is love. And it’s a story that fills me up every time I tell it. It cost him nothing and brought her joy, and that’s the kind of thing we should all be seeking to do for each other. Life’s hard enough.
Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” That’s just as true now as it was in 1965. Sometimes, love requires great sacrifice. Other times, it requires just a little patience and a few kind words. And sometimes, all you need to do is eat a slice or two of pound cake.
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