On Sunday I was driving with a friend when I saw a senior citizen trying to get through the crosswalk, with mere seconds before the light was going to change. I said to my friend how I wanted to stop and help them cross the street. It wasn’t safe for me to stop, so I didn’t but I was concerned he wouldn’t make it to the other side before the light turned green. My friend looked at me and said, “why do you feel the need to help everyone?”. So, a bit of an exaggeration on my friends part…I don’t feel the need to help everyone. But when I see someone in need, I don’t just feel the need to help – I want to help. Sometimes it’s at my own sacrifice, often putting me behind in time, money or energy (or all once in awhile). Although the feeling I get in my heart when I know I was able to help someone who needed it is enough of an answer as to “why”, my friend made me really think about it – why do I do what I do? Why do I spend so much time helping the less fortunate, the marginalized, those who society seems to have given up on? Why am I constantly on the lookout to see if I can help someone? I know I’m not the only one who cares, I also know that not everyone who cares is able to help as much as they’d like. I don’t consider myself a superhero on any level – if anything I consider myself lucky that I am able to help as much as I do.
I’ve always had a big heart. I remember crying to my mom when I was a kid because one of my friends was going through a hard time and I wanted to help her. My mom told me I was blessed with a big heart. I looked at her and told her that sometimes, it feels more like a curse. I felt that way my entire life – hurting so much because someone I care about is hurting; wanting to help end someone’s suffering; feeling unworthy when I couldn’t help someone – those feelings made caring so much feel like a curse.
My Grandma Suds was one of the most important people in my life. This September will mark 5 years since she passed away – and I miss her more everyday. Yesterday, January 15, was her birthday. She would have turned 92 years old. I have many happy memories of my grandma from my childhood up to the day of her memorial service that I cherish. She was someone I looked up to (still do), but I didn’t realize just how much until I started thinking about the answer to my friend’s question.
I had known for years that my grandma used to volunteer at maximum security prisons where she would sit and visit with prisoners. We’re not talking about petty thieves here – she would sit with murderers, rapists, pedophiles – the worst of the worst of man kind. She did not condone the crime they committed, but she saw the prisoners as humans – humans who still need love. She would talk with them, pray with them if they wanted, and anyone who had the pleasure of meeting my grandma would agree when I say the prisoners were well entertained by her.
My mom told me she remembers once when she was a kid, my grandma saw a blind man shopping at the grocery store. She started a conversation with him and ended up inviting him to have dinner with their family. My mom said this man became a regular dinner guest in their home. Aside from the blind man, it was not uncommon for my grandma to invite homeless people to their dinner table and home. It was just something she did. If someone needed help, she offered what she could. No questions asked; no strings attached, nothing owed in return – hmmm….sounds familiar….
My grandma helped start the St. Albert Food bank and then ran it for years. She would try and include nice, little extra things in the packages, to make people feel a little better when they were feeling extra vulnerable and down on their luck – help make them smile. Just another way she thought she could help.
I didn’t realize until yesterday just how much I’m following in my grandma’s footsteps – to be honest, I didn’t really clue in that I was like her at all until yesterday. Which means having a big heart isn’t a curse – it really is a blessing. Because my grandma was an incredible woman and anyone who met her was then engraved in her heart and showered with her abundance of love. Although I’ll never be able to do near as much good as she did in her 87 years on earth, if I can be even an ounce like her, I know she would be proud. I help others because I feel driven to – but I can’t help but wonder if the amount I’ve upped my game these past few years is in thanks to my grandma looking down on me and seeing more than I do; knowing that there is so much more help needed; believing in me; guiding me – she knows I can help. Because I am so much like her. She probably knew that for years before she passed away – I know she’s smiling now as I am starting to realize it too.
Happy belated birthday Grandma. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. Thank you for being the change you wanted to see in the world – know that your love lives on. So does your help. Thank you for being my inspiration. I miss you.