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Strokes, Good Deeds, and Kitty Cats
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004, 11:48 a.m.

QUESTION: Good deed, anyone?

WHAT I LEARNED: Small things can make big differences.

My Friday Finds will be posted late a little this weekend. Exhaustion got the best of me last night. Now, on a rainy Saturday morning, I plan to finish them up. They are a little different than my usual finds. You’ll see.

But first…

I’d like to thank everyone who left me notes and sent me emails wishing my mother a speedy recover after her recent stroke and for their prayers on her behalf. Your kind words, thoughts, and prayers were very much appreciated.

My mom stayed overnight in the hospital and got a ton of tests. They did verify that she had indeed had a stroke. She has suffered some visual impairment, which is either going to go away on its own or not – we’ll just have to wait as see. She has suffered some memory lapses or holes too. She’s had to re-learn some things like how to program their VCR. I’m sure that is a scary and frustrating experience because she is very self-reliant. When I talk to her on the phone, she sounds really deep-down tired. I think she is just completely worn out. Who wouldn’t be? One of her great health problems is debilitating migraines. She was in the midst of one when she had the stroke. The migraine lasted 6 days. I do worry that these migraines will damage her health further now that she has had this stoke.

Sadly, the same weekend she had her stroke she lost her old cat – Sundance. Sundance was a stray cat that my parents adopted. She was the color of marmalade with tiger stripes and a shy disposition. She was also an adventurer. She enjoyed her freedom to go in and out as she pleased. Sundance delighted in the world and also a warm cozy home at the end of the trail. She loved to be an outdoor cat. She also was happy to be an indoor cat. She used up some of her 9 lives outside and saved a few by coming inside. She probably burned up a few underneath the house. She was a bit of a miracle in yellow fur.

This sudden health issue for my mother makes me think of my mother-in-law, Cel, who passed away 2 years ago in December around this time after battled Alzheimer’s for many years. She was a person who was very strong and humble and caring. She always used to say – Take one day at a time. It’s how she got herself through her hard times. I have found this admonition very helpful during the hectic times in my life – like this week for instance.

She had understood this idea that Fulton Sheen talked about as "the Now". Bishop Sheen, who had a famous television series entitled, "Life is Worth Living" in the 1950’s presented my mother-in-law’s take-one-day-at-a-time idea this way:

The second remedy for the ills that come to us from thinking about time is what might be called the sanctification of the moment - or the Now. Our Lord laid down the rule for us in these words: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today" (Mt 6:34). This means that each day has its own trials; we are not to borrow troubles from tomorrow, because that day too will have its cross. We are to leave the past to divine mercy and to trust the future, whatever its trials, to God’s loving providence. Each minute of life has its peculiar duty - regardless of the appearance that minute may take. The Now-moment is the moment of salvation. Each complaint against it is a defeat; each act of resignation to it is a victory. (Excerpt from "From the Angel’s Blackboard")

My mom-in-law also said many things with her actions and words, which spoke of self-sacrifice, compassion for others, and a desire to endure in order to help those around her – her family, her friends, and her community. That continues to be an inspiration to me.

We are all walking pattern cards of how to life a life that is meaningful. Either we do it by our good example, or we do it by our bad one. Most times we do a little bit of both. Whether we realize it or not, the way we live our lives make us either cautionary tales or inspirational daily role models. What we do ripples across the sea of our family, friends, acquaintances, and people we’ve never met, in ways that it is impossible to know – either for good or bad. It makes you think – especially at this holiday season – how important the small things we do towards good each day are; how we may never know the many ways these simple things impact others for good.

Every holiday season for the last few years, my family has made an effort to do secret good deeds for other family members – making a bed, leaving a note or a piece of candy, giving up something so that the other person can have it, picking up their room, or a thousand other little things. We also make an effort to try to move this project out of the home and into the world. Taking a moment to smile at a stranger, letting someone else ahead of you in line at the store, assisting a colleague, letting someone cut in front of you in traffic without getting mad. It becomes a holiday game or little contest with the heart in which in the end everyone comes out the winner.

The holidays provide us a good reminder of the kind of people we should strive towards being all year round. Keep it in mind at this festive season. I know I will be.

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