Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Endings and Beginnings

I’ve read a lot of blogging lately about impotence (writing related, not the other kind *g* ), writing schedules, letting go and being a good mother. Somehow, guilt always seems to factor into the equation.

Let me set your worried minds at ease. Waiting won’t kill you and your life won’t end if you take a morning or even a whole day away from writing and instead spend the time watching kid movies. Relaxing is actually good for your blood pressure, and if you weren’t a good mother, the authorities would have figured it out by now and knocked on your front door.

There’s too much worry in the world – myself included. And I’m trying to get a handle on it before it gets a grip on me.

Last weekend we had a big ending in our family. #2 son graduated from college. His degree is in Business Administration with a Law minor. He had a stellar athletic career during his university days that was capped off with a conference championship and MPV award two weeks ago. Now he has a new beginning as a college graduate.

We’re not quite sure what that beginning is going to be. His graduate school plans sort of got shanghaied when someone entered the coaching program unexpectedly and took the graduate assistantship slot he was hoping to get. He’s looking at his options and while I’m concerned about his future, he’s a big boy now and I have to trust that he will make the right decisions.

The graduation ceremony had the usual speeches but one in particular really caught my attention. The Alumni Association presented a distinguished service award to Dr. Frances Owl-Smith, the first female member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation to become a medical doctor. She entered college at age 29 as a non-traditional student and graduated four years later with a degree in medical technology. She then entered medical school and is now a practicing pathologist in a town near the university.

Her message to the students was this: Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. That line got quite a round of laughter from the graduates, but you could see quite a few parents nodding in agreement.

Dr. Owl-Smith then advised them to “get a life.” Careers are wonderful and she challenged them to do well in their chosen fields. But she also told them that in addition to doing well, they should do good. They should strive to make their community, their state, their country and their world a better place. Getting a life can be picking up trash along the roadside near your home. It can involve volunteering for any number of agencies who desperately need not only dollars but warm bodies to help. It can be reading to a small child and instilling the love of the written word in that still-developing brain.

So for those of you who are feeling helpless, pressured, unplugged or just frustrated in general, stop, take a deep breath, go outside and listen to the birds sing and say a little thanks for your blessings.

E-mail your best buddy or get together with your best friend or friends and take a little break from that rat race I mentioned earlier. I know it’s not always easy, especially when you have a deadline to meet. Whether self-imposed or set by your editor, it can usually survive a short break. Heck, it might be a benefit if it means getting your head screwed back on straight.

I tend to get a little preachy in here sometimes. I think it probably stems from weathering thirty-three years of marriage and the notches I’ve carved in the steering wheel after traveling the teen years with two sons. I’ll climb down off my high horse now. The saddle is beginning to chafe a little anyways.

Just as Dr. Owl-Smith was a non-traditional student, I look at myself as a non-traditional writer. Unlike the rest of the Playfriends, I got into this late in life. My passion for publication and devotion to writing is not nearly as strong as theirs. I admire them every day for their hard work and thank the good Lord that they included an old rat with an arthritic toe and a bum shoulder into their playground.

Do well, but also do good. I won’t put you on the spot by asking what you’ve done good lately, but if time and money were no object, what good would you do?


Smarty Pants said...

If time and money were no object... maybe help habitat for humanity build homes. That's a cause near and dear to me. I can't frame a house, of course, but I can paint and clean and plant bushes.

I've done my share of roadside clean ups, whale adoptions, and can recycling in my environmental hippie days.

Now comes the big follow on question - what stops you from doing it anyway?


Kathy said...

I think we're all jaded, SP. Someone once told me you have no idea where your contributions go. If they are going to help employ staff, how are you helping? Did you know that every time you buy a box of girl scout cookies, the girl scout's troup only gets $.20. According to a report over 9 years ago by 60 Minutes, over $1-$2 goes to cooperate headquarters to support a 9 story building on a main NYC street with over 400 employees and the CEO who makes over $90,000 a year. While only $.80 goes to the State headquarters. Which means, our little girls are slave labor. Finding out things like this can turn people off.

What can I do? I can personally go out and buy flowers for the facade of my church and plant them. I can hand a poor man cash or buy him food. Donate money to someone in need. I can donate my belongings to Good Will or Purple Hearts instead of making a buck or two having a yard sale. I can donate my money and time to my school, my local volunteer fire department, the Red Cross, donate blood, recycle, etc...

We make a difference in this world whenever we open our mouths and speak, smile at a stranger, spend quality time with our kids, or voice the yearning of our hearts onto paper. The world is a wheel and we are all a cog in it helping it to turn. Without all the spokes in working order the wheel will break down.

So as I venture out into the world today, remember everything you do makes a difference. And every moment you spend with those you love creates a bond that will not break that wheel.


Instigator said...

I have a soft spot for Habitat for Humanity as well, SP. It's been years since I worked on a project (as in before Sweet Pea was born) but the last home I worked on I wired the house :-) No comments about its potential for fire. I also nailed on the covering they put over the wood before the siding.

Hmm, perhaps the playground should schedule a community service day?

If money and time weren't a factor (and they shouldn't be but to my chagrin I find they usually are) I'd like to help rebuild AL, MS, and LA. I would also enjoy working in Africa - something for poverty, AIDS prevention, equal opportunities for women, children's rights. Jeez, there's a lot in this world that needs fixing. More than any one person can solve. Thank Heaven for the generosity of humanity. What would we do without the help of the people around us?