March 4, 2011

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Remember in life, it’s not always about you

Patti LambA few weeks ago, I spent a great deal of time hand-making a gift for my dear friend’s birthday.

My friend is a crafter. That’s an understatement. Her artistic talent knows no bounds. The birthday cakes that she effortlessly whips up look like they came out of a baker’s magazine.

She sews her daughter’s dresses from the cutest gingham fabrics, and borders them with rick-rack. Every greeting card she sends is homemade. And you should see the throw pillows on her couch. They are exquisite. She made them herself, of course.

So I figured she would appreciate my humble attempt at creative expression when it came to her birthday gift. It took an immense amount of effort, lots of time and more money than I planned, but I wanted to get it right.

My friend lives in another city—a city too far away, in my opinion. I packed up her present with the greatest of care. I even used decorative packing tape on the cardboard box in which I shipped it.

No small detail is overlooked by her when it comes to presentation.

The day of her birthday arrived, and we called her, but we got her voicemail. So my children sang their best rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

As bedtime approached that night, I grew a bit sad that we hadn’t connected on her special day.

Then a couple more days passed.

My feelings were hurt that I hadn’t heard from her. I shared these thoughts with my cousin.

“Doesn’t she know that I put a lot of time into that gift?” I asked.

I quickly followed that up with, “Maybe she thought it was a rookie attempt, and a poor use of blues and greens.”

Then I said, “Maybe she’s mad about something I said when we last spoke.”

When I finished rattling off my thoughts, my cousin gave me a gentle smile and softly delivered these words.

“Maybe it’s not all about you,” she said.

I was taken back.

That hadn’t occurred to me.

Nearly a week later, my crafty friend called me then started crying.

She told me that, over the course of the past week, her husband had lost his job. On top of that, she was mourning a loss about which I was not aware.

“These past few days have been abysmal,” she said, explaining that her family is living in a world of unknowns and she is terrified.

All this time, I had been sulking—and giving lots of mental energy to the cause—because she didn’t acknowledge my efforts. Little did I know that she was harnessing all of her energy to navigate in a topsy-turvy world.

My cousin was right. It had nothing to do with me. How often I err in trying to make it about me. Too often, I make myself the nucleus around which everything spins. I view the world in relation to how things affect me.

And society reinforces that way of thinking. The world’s message is to look out for number one. But I don’t think that is how God wants us to approach life.

I was ashamed at my greedy reaction and expectations concerning my friend’s birthday gift.

How presumptuous of me. I am realizing that others carry crosses I may never even know about. I should try to do better, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Lent begins next week. It is a great opportunity for me to make a concerted effort to look beyond myself—to look to God.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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