In my very first blog post, I shared the unique way I grew up. Instead of filling our home with things, my parents filled it with people.
Our childhood home was always open. There was always room for one more person at the table. We had countless people live with us of all nationalities, backgrounds, and religions. Some would stay a night, but most would stay months. A few stayed for years. Most of our adopted family members arrived with serious needs and issues from drug addiction to abuse to serious psychiatric needs.
As I reflect on Mother’s Day, celebrated on Sunday May 11, I think about the lessons I learned from my parents. And, just as my mom prefers to give to others more than receiving gifts, I thought I would share that spirit and pass these lessons on. Today I honor her with more than flowers by sharing her wisdom.
1. Personal power is more important than positional power.
As I reflect on my childhood, I cannot think of a single time that my mom used her “positional” power as parent. But she always used her personal power, her persuasion, and her personality to influence. Anything I learned about how to relate to people started by watching her in action.
Even today, my mom is never interested in titles or your position. She is interested in you. What is your story? What are your talents? What are you doing for others?
2. Giving to others will always make you happier than receiving.
Yes, we’ve all heard that it is better to give than to receive. But why? Mom taught me that happiness is always rooted in service to others. I’ve seen people with depression improve dramatically when they serve others.
Mom was always happy, always singing, always sharing. And that may be because she was always giving—to us, to friends, and to all of the people she met each day. Our house was always full of people in need, and so the opportunity to give was always present. She is still the same way today as she was then.
3. The spiritual is more important than the temporal.
Some things are temporary, fleeting, lasting but a moment. Other things are forever. Make sure you are spending time on what matters in the long run. One of the very few rules I can remember was this: If you needed a place to stay, you were welcome to stay as long as you needed. But, you were required to attend church with the family. There is something powerful about connecting to forces greater than you.
One of the verses she would share with me was Colossians 3:2: “Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth.”
Here is one story my wife recalls about my mom: Someone was staying in the house and she was learning a new skill for a job: How to cut hair. As I recall, she was somewhat troubled and my mom was counseling her. Mom volunteered to let her practice her newly learned skills. The girl transformed her hair, butchering it on one side. Instead of anger, my mom graciously turned to her in love. As she poured love on this girl, she taught us all what really matters.
4. The heart is greater than things.
If you broke something—even something precious to her—she didn’t care much. Sweep it up, throw it out, and it was long forgotten. But, if your heart was broken, she spent as many hours with you as you needed. She would agonize with you. If you were broken in spirit, she would encourage and lift you out of a dark place. She still does.