(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
“Did you throw the dinosaur in the trash?” I sent the text as a question, but I knew the answer.
My husband, God bless him, was cleaning out our car yesterday. He just felt like it; he had time off. He’s one of those productive personality types. What was my response to his unprompted help? I sent him an accusatory text about throwing away a green dinosaur costume for our toddler that had been sitting in the car for who knows how long.
Don’t worry. I dug it out of the trash along with a children’s book “that I love” (even though I had completely forgotten about it). I also let my husband know that I had to clean it all now because it smelled like poop.
“I’m the worst,” he replied.
He has a gentle way of diffusing my wide-swinging emotions. God made him with the most gracious disposition (or maybe it’s a well-developed survival mechanism from growing up with four sisters… again, God bless him).
We can go ahead and state the glaringly obvious fact that if anyone is the worst, it is me.
Recognizing My Problem
Fast-forward one day, and I was tidying up our home. I found a pile of folded laundry on the kitchen table. The clothes were mine; my husband had done some of my laundry the night before. I smiled as I noticed the way he folded a few things… it was clumsy but so apparent that he really tried. I smiled because he’s done my laundry in the past and always “just dumps it in a laundry basket so it gets all wrinkled.” I’ve complained about it, and he listened and folded it this time. (I don’t blame you one iota if you’re really judging me now.)
He’s so different from me. I do something good, and I shout it from the rooftops. I want praise and applause and adoration; it’s a bit juvenile. He just does it. I’ve learned so much from him. I want to be like him. How lucky am I to have someone who makes me better without telling me all of the ways I fall short? Even now, as I think about it, my heart is swollen with gratefulness for the way he quietly loves me, both directly and indirectly.
I was about to go on with my business of putting my folded clothes away when I realized something. I was so quick to text him when I was frustrated, but I did nothing but feel internally grateful for him when he did something that made me feel loved. Anger motivated me to take direct action. Love motivated me to do nothing.
Something is wrong here, I thought.
I’m laser-focused on taking action when I’m mad. I want to do something about it. I want to change things. I want to make things right. I want justice. But what would it look like if I allowed love to be my greatest motivator? What if love is what moved me to action? What kind of wake would I leave? What kind of wake am I leaving right now?
What would it look like if I allowed love to be my greatest motivator? What kind of wake would I leave? What kind of wake am I leaving right now?
Recognizing the Power of Love
One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Someone who embodied the meaning of this phrase was my Grandpa Robb. He was another great man, much like my husband, and he unexpectedly passed away last month. He was always special to me because he was an exceptional grandfather. But it wasn’t until he was in the ICU at the hospital when I realized just how special he actually was—to practically everyone with whom he came in contact.
His hospital room was consistently full of people who were sharing stories of him… laughing, crying, hoping, and praying. In a corner of the building that feels so thick with death, Room 2212 was overflowing with life—just like my grandpa. At one point, his nurse asked through a laugh, “Who is this guy? The mayor?” His funeral service was packed; even the actual mayor showed up.
My grandfather was a magnet of a man. Why? Because he was motivated by love and generosity (and was a lot fun, too). And because he allowed love to be his motivator, his life carried great weight. The waves of his life’s wake were powerful, and they are still rippling through the lives of countless people who will never forget the way he made them feel. I want to be like him, too.
He was a good gift. But the thing about good gifts is that when they are gone, there is a tangible absence. A very real void. And while I know I cannot ever fill that void, I decided I want to carry on his goodness in the world. Anytime I see an opportunity to do something I think he would do, I take it. It’s one way I am seeking to grow as a woman of grit and grace, and it’s my own little internal tribute to him.
With all of this in mind, I’ve allowed love to lead me to do things like:
Open my wallet and give a little bit of extra cash to someone who needs it more than I do.
Have the courage to stand up in a room full of strangers and say something bold, but loving.
Let someone off the hook when it would have benefited me not to.
Buy a meaningful gift that reminded me of someone when it felt like I didn’t have the financial bandwidth to do so.
Take a risk on someone without expectations, other than hoping it would give them the boost they need to get back on their feet.
Love also caused me to put the clumsily-folded laundry down, pick up my phone, and text my husband, “Thank you for doing my laundry and for folding it. Thank you for loving me the way that you do. I’m so grateful for you.”
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: New Year, Strong You! How to Reflect on Your Year in a Helpful Way – 114!