“People talk about wanting others to succeed, or have a good life…and some folks really are happy to see someone else do well. But then there are folks who don’t want anybody to be better off than they are… whether it’s about money or happiness or even talent… and I can tell you already, that those people who are consumed with what other people have and what they don’t are never going to be well off or happy. You can’t do or get good when you are wishing other people will do or get bad. There is more than enough of everything good to go around. That’s the thing about goodness, somehow there is just more and more and more…and endless supply of it…a well that never does and never will run dry. We’ve just got to remember to drop our bucket in! It never stops flowing and the level never gets low no matter how much is taken. ”
Granddaddy was always encouraging all of us to do good to others and to be willing to help. But he also told me that there will be people who like me because I “fly high” above all of the world’s petty troubles. “ You’ve got a gift, Katie. Ever notice how some folks get all bent out of shape about little things or stick their noses in other people’s business? Notice how miserable those people are? I’d imagine that wallowing around in trash and gossip and drama would be an awful way to spend the day! Honey, I’m glad to say you’re not like that. You do a pretty fine job keepin yourself separated from that foolishness and stayin focused on what’s important…”
I raised my eyebrows because I wasn’t certain that I agreed with Granddaddy’s kind assessment.
“Now I know sometimes you get drawn into a trap”
Granddaddy caught himself before he let a smile over-take his face. “I’m not mentioning any names here, I’m just sayin that there is more that tries to pull us down here on this earth besides gravity… and sometimes you will have to work hard not to get drug down. Just keep flyin high, and keep your eyes fixed on the things that matter.”
Granddaddy warned me to avoid the type of people who don‘t know how to fly themselves … the type that just want to use people like any other tool to get what they want. “There are folks that are gonna love how happy you are… how free you are… They don’t know how to be like you, so they are gonna want to hitch a ride. They think that you will be able to lift them up too. Problem is, that you can‘t fly for another person. .. And you can’t fly with another person on your back. Those folks have to learn for themselves. You can try to help them…tell them how… you can encourage and cheer… but keep your distance. You can’t get too close to somebody who wants to rise above everybody but hasn’t got any intention of learnin how to fly on their own. Those people are unhappy and Earth bound because of all the heavy and unimportant thing weighin them down. Their eyes are focused on themselves and their selfish desires… not outward and upward. A person has to be unburdened to rise up. Beware of the type of person who will grab hold of you. If they see you can’t fly with them on your back they may try to pin your wings, or even clip them if you can’t do for them what they want…If they can’t fly, they don’t want you to either! Katie, you are too trusting. You have a heart that wants to help, but some people can only be helped from a safe distance. A hummingbird ain’t built to carry a dead man‘s weight. But a hummingbird is a beautiful thing that can inspire. Just be you. Don’t stop being you. A dead man might be raised again like Lazarus, God willing, with prayers from us. That is what you can do to help…let God be God and you be you.”
Granddaddy and Grandma always told me that if it weren’t for the kindness of their family and neighbors during hard times that they don’t know how they could have made it. I know for a fact that there were times when people depended on my Grandparents to make it through a tough spot…and I depended on people too… some of them very unlikely saviors. Lot’s of debts are owed to the people who I love and who love me. The thing about real love, is that no body keeps count. There’s no score board or scales to weigh who’s done more or less. It’s all balances out fine in the end.
One day I was huffin and puffin and pitchin a fit because my Momma had wrapped up a bunch of our old clothes and toys in my favorite tattered blanket … the blanket that I drug around with me when I was a baby… that hung on a chair by my bed so that I could touch it’s soft corners between my fingertips when I went to sleep… Momma had wrapped the discarded items in my blanket and hauled it all down to the church for the annual yard “sale.” Nobody actually sold anything, it was just a big give-away day for anybody to take anything that they wanted or needed. Momma left home with her load, dumped it on the church lawn… and came back home empty-handed. “Where’s my blanket, Momma?”
“That old thing? I left it at the church.”
“WHHAAATT?????” I screamed and flew out the door.
I ran all the way to church, full sprint… and when I got there, a bunch of folks were already pickin through the church congregation’s discards. I knew that a lot of the people who had come to “shop” were the poorest of the poor in our community… the ones that lived down in the hollers where there were no roads and the land was too steep and rocky and dark to grow anything. I often wondered what those poor people lived on, and from the looks of it, not much. They were so skinny… the one couple that caught my attention I knew couldn’t have been any older than my own momma and daddy… but they looked way older than even my grandparents… and their little children were so pale that I could see the blue veins that ran under their frail, thin- skinned arms and necks and faces. They had dark eyes and dirty hair and sharp little features…those babies had no baby fat to soften their edges. Somehow they seemed ancient… from a different world…like they were really hundred year old fairy people in disguise instead of little children.
And there it was. The youngest one in the group, who looked no more than four because of how tiny she was, stood cradling my blanket. The little girl had carefully folded and refolded that blanket to swaddle one of Betsy’s old baby dolls… and she was rockin and kissin and lovin on that doll wrapped snug in my blanket. The girl was lost in her own world. As I stood there lookin at that family, my tears of anger at my momma turned to tears of gratitude… thankfulness that I had so much when some people had so little… and tears of … I don’t exactly know what… sorrow, joy, humility? That this little girl could get so much pleasure and joy from something so simple. I had loved my blanket, but ten years with that blanket hadn’t meant nearly as much to me as her few minutes with it.
The sun never shone in the type of place where that little girl lived… there was a shadow over everything all day everyday from the thick trees , the steep slopes and the closeness of the mountains. I couldn’t imagine anyplace worse…no rays of sun…no silver lining. No warmth. Now my blanket could be there with that little girl to keep her warm at night or on the many chilly days… or to keep her occupied in play for the long hours every day when there were so few people to see or things to do. I was pretty sure that those children didn’t go to school or church. Getting out to come to the “Sale” was probably one of the highlights of their year. I just stood their and felt a sense of peace wash over me…I think it might be the first time I felt that type of Presence. I would get that feeling at other times in my life, but this was the first one I remember. I knew my blanket was much more than frayed and stained square of cloth. My blanket was gonna keep her baby doll warm. She could play mommy and love on that baby like every little girl wants their own mommy to love on them… that blanket was gonna be loved and teach love. I was glad my momma had left my blanket, and I was glad that the little girl couldn’t see me and my big tears of a hard lesson learned.
I didn’t even realize where I was going, but instead of home I ended up walkin to Granddaddy’s. He was sittin on the steps whittling a penny flute. “Well, hello Darlin! What brings you by?”
I sat down with Granddaddy and told him my story. He kept whittling, but he got that moist look in his eyes and looked at me in a way that made me feel happy and sad at the same time.
“Sounds like my girl grew up a little bit today.” He laid down his whittling knife and pulled me to him and kissed my forehead. I don’t know why I cried… because I was happy…and sad.. and because I was being hugged by my Granddaddy… but I cried for a long time, and he just held me.
After a while he said, “Katie, if somebody’s needs help…if somebody’s in need of anything, help whenever you can. Even if you don’t know what they might do with what you give them… when it’s given away, it’s out of your hands. You do your part, and be glad that you could, and then let it go. Even if there isn’t “enough” to share at the moment, it will all balance out. Sometimes the thing that is the hardest for you to let go of is precisely the thing that you should let go of… your last loaf of bread, your winter coat…your favorite blanket.” He stopped and kissed my head again, “Katie, if somebody else’s life depended on something you had, it would always be worth the sacrifice, wouldn’t it? And when somebody needs something from us that is the way we should look at it… sharing what we have might change somebody’s life… but it also might save somebody’s life. We just don’t know.
“Things can be replaced. We might be hungry or cold for a day or two, but your deciding to be generous might make a difference for their comfort…but also might make a change in their soul. They might not just get something from us, they might learn something from us too… something that they might share when they run across somebody in need. Giving without expectin anything for it is the only way to give… otherwise it ain’t really givin, it’s just a swap.”
We sat there together…thinkin our own thoughts for a little while. Then Granddaddy went on in a soft voice, almost a whisper in my ear. “A tight-fisted person, whether they’re stingy with their belongings or their money or their time or their love, don’t have a thing. Who are they gonna enjoy all that they have with if they are alone…and selfish folks usually end up that way! Those folks are so afraid of losing what they have. ..They hang on so tightly to things that don’t even matter. It’s sad because they’ll never find out how much more they could get if they’d open up their hands. I tell you this, Katie…the only way to get all of the blessings that God wants to give us is to let everything loose that doesn’t matter. That will free us up for what we are supposed to have.
“The best way to always have what we need is to give away whatever somebody else needs! Nobody needs more than enough. Enough is the perfect amount.”
“I’d rather have somebody I love with me than any amount of things.” I said looking up through my blurring tears.
“I know you would, Baby, and I would too.”