Published Friday, March 08, 2013
As we sat in church two Sundays ago, my son looked at me and asked, “Aren’t we supposed to give up something for Lent?”
I nodded, ashamed that I had not mentioned the six weeks in the liturgical calendar that leads up to Easter to him sooner.
“I might give up Coke,” he said.
Before the next hymn was sung, he said, “I don’t think I’m going to give up Coke.”
Then he looked at me and asked, “What are you giving up?”
I told him to shush, and I would tell him later, relieved that talking during church was a faux pas. I’m not sure what the remainder of the sermon was about. I do recall thinking and immediately vetoing a few items that I might give up, with chocolate being number one. I also considered gluten, but since I’m allergic and can’t eat it anyway, that might not be fair.
I could tell the question was continuing to weigh on my son’s mind as well, so I leaned in and whispered, “You can also take on something new.”
The answer seemed to please him.
We went home and set about our day, and I’m sad to say I forgot. Today, God reminded me. I went to the mailbox and pulled out a card and was surprised to see it was from a friend, whom I’ll call Hannah.
“I wonder what this is,” I thought.
I don’t care how great the kids say texting is, I still love to get a letter.
“I bet she’s writing to say she’s praying for my dad because of his upcoming hip replacement. She’s so nice and thoughtful,” I thought.
I ripped the envelope open. I remember my grandmother always used a letter opener and kept the envelopes, but, alas, that era has passed.
As I peered inside, I was even more surprised to see it was a thank you note.
“Now what could she be thanking me for,” I thought, feeling ashamed that I had not done anything for her when her mother passed away, her sweet mother who used to baby sit my son when my husband was traveling and I had a doctor’s appointment or a tennis match or something else in between.
My friend wrote a column about how it takes a village to raise a child, but she didn’t know what to do because she didn’t have a village. Well, Hannah and her mom were part of my village. Our boys had immediately bonded at the age of 3. They were rough and rowdy and inseparable.
When she and I first met, I had a terrible migraine. I sat in the back of the room at the meet-your-teacher function with my head on the desk and introduced myself to the teacher by saying, “Please don’t believe everything he says.”
Hannah, a newcomer to the county and a nurse by trade, had laughed, and we were fast friends.
In her letter, she said, this Lent season, she was taking the time to thank the people who made a positive impact in her life, and I was one. She told me how much my “small-town welcome” meant to her and her family, including how I taught her the correct way to pronounce “Coweta.”
Hey, what are friends for?
She also thanked me for teaching her how important it is to thank people for the small things. I smiled, knowing exactly what she was talking about. The “lesson” happened after probably one of the worst kids’ parties on record, or at least for Hannah and me, who were on our third child.
We believed kids’ parties should involve chips and cookies and special treats they don’t necessarily get every day. The other mom believed the kids needed healthy food such as peanut butter and apple jelly on whole wheat and a nice cold glass of whole milk. Despite our attempts to sneak junk food in, she refused, and as a result, ended up taking home 35 untouched sandwiches.
As we left the party that day, I said, “I forgot to thank her!”
“For what?” Hannah said.
“For bringing the food to the party. I’ll send her a thank you note.”
Hannah at this point said something to the effect of “Great, now I have to thank people for that, too. Southern small-town manners are killing me.”
I’m not sure if I ever sent that thank you note, but I sure am glad the lesson stuck with Hannah this Lent season. Thank you, Hannah, for reminding me, nine years later, that the little things we say and do matter, even if it’s correcting someone’s pronunciation.