I recently heard for a second time the story of why a friend feels called to be a stay-at-home mom. I had heard it before, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it. When I heard it the second time I realized: Wow, this is really the story behind why she made this enormous, self-sacrificial, counter-cultural life decision. It is a story about such a small, minor detail.
The Story of a Snack
This friend felt the absence of her mother growing up. Her mother would work long hours and get home late. After this friend got out from school, she would go home where she had a maid who took care of her and the house until her mother got home. But there weren’t snacks, she said. So instead, she preferred to go to her neighbors’ house, where the mother was at home and would provide snacks. They weren’t even homemade snacks, just some store-bought pastries, but the detail of her neighbors’ mother preparing snacks for them touched her profoundly. She still recounts it vividly and wants to be a stay-at-home mom now so she can be fully available to her kids and prepare snacks for them when they come home from school.
This story impressed me because of this small action that caused a big impact, but also because the person who caused this impact probably doesn’t realize she did. We all influence one another in life, however it is not always (or even usually) through lofty speeches, eloquent articles (ahem!) or charitable volunteer work. It is through our person, and through the minor details that flow from that.
The Story of Capris
I had a “reversion” in high school in which I came back to the Catholic Church through a series of unrelated events. There was one person in particular who influenced me greatly, with whom I had limited contact, and who has absolutely no idea the influence she had on me. I’m a little embarrassed to tell her. She was my older sister’s friend. She now has seven kids, but at the time had three or four small children. She led a “True Love Waits” course that I participated in to help out her husband, who was youth minister at the time. I still remember her capri jeans cut off at the knee. In fact, I had some that reminded me of her a couple of years ago. Of course, they weren’t the actual jeans, but what they reflected of her person. She wore them often, which showed she didn’t have much money and she didn’t have fancy clothes. They were simple but cute, which somehow reflected her simplicity and authenticity as a person.
The Story of a Mint
There was a girl in high school I was never friends with, but admired from afar. We were in the same history class. She was very Christian, very studious and a very good track and field athlete. I was (at the time) not a practicing Catholic, not very studious, and a not very good track and field athlete. One day I failed my driver’s license test and was really upset about it. My dad dropped me off at school, but I was unable to go to into my history class (which was going on at the time) because I was crying in the bathroom. This girl happened to go to the bathroom at that time, saw me crying, and had a really sweet empathetic reaction. I think she hugged me, asked what was wrong and asked if she could help in any way. I didn’t open up, or if I did, not a lot. What touched me most though, was when I went back to class, she passed me a sweet note with a tiny box of mints in it. They were fish mints, in the symbol of fish with bible verses on them. It was such a tiny gesture and I’m sure she doesn’t remember it at all. I’m sure she barely remembers me, but those mints and her kindness are forever imprinted on my mind.
The Story of a House
There was another friend in high school who I wasn’t very close to, but whose example still stays with me today. At the time, I thought she was too “goody two shoes” and too childish for my taste. Nowadays I realize how foolish I was. I went to her house once and her home and her family life enchanted me. I remember her mom had a grand piano. I played the piano so this was particularly beautiful and captivating for me. Her father was a mailman, but he was so industrious and so commendable at his work that he had won an award of some sort as I remember. It was his work in the home that most impressed me. He had made a bamboo forest for his daughter, which was completely personalized and I think even included a tree house. They had two big dogs, which he cared for and played with. And he had helped decorate her room. Nowadays I still think about her house and the love which was so obviously present in her family.
The story of our lives
I really liked an article by Jennifer Fulwiler (that I can’t find) in which she tells a story of a grocery store employee who was inspired to conversion by a customer’s watch. The watch reminded her of her grandmother’s watch which then reminded her of her grandmother, who was an example of faith. Sometimes it’s the small details that God uses and this is a good reminder of how little we do. “Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
We do well not to focus so much on helping or impressing others, as letting ourselves be transformed by Christ, inhabited by the Spirit, and let Him do the rest.