Valor

My friend, former coworker, and confidante Debra Dickey wrote today’s blog post. I never stop learning from this woman. Thank you, Debra.

In my experience, valor is a prevailing and significant part of kindness, faceted, inextricably entwined.  Kindness, by definition, is a perfectly generated act; designed especially and wholly specific to its purpose and direction; genuinely presented, without distinction, qualification or condition, expecting nothing in return.  Valor described as an act of bravery, never counting the cost, steeped in gallantry, graciousness, conviction, heart and spirit, is kindness with a noble twist.   Therefore, by interpretation, kindness and valor incorporate the self-same characteristics within their disposition. Benevolence etched in valor. Parallel objectives; peerless outcomes.   

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARenowned acts of kindness in their character and dispensation continue to deserve distinguishing mention in the journals of my life. Inscribed with valor, often jagged and irregular in my plebeian existence, friendly kindnesses have always been around me, typically crafted in the form of benign pleasantries and considerations.  Yet in shining moments, there have been more imbued magnanimities.  Only a matter of degree?

Maybe.  Perhaps solely the ‘knight in shining armor’ psychology?  Who’s to say!  But I do know that once in a while, there have been notable and remarkable, made-to-order, selfless acts of kindness extended to me unsuspecting, some requiring momentous valor, others only requiring love, but all totally unexpected, indubitably unsolicited, yet perfectly tailored to fit, and indescribable in what they meant to me, because . . . .  they were meant for me.

Easily recalled:  once, a concerned stranger with particular insight; again, more than once, a relative with a huge heart; many times, family generosity; friends, too, with no agenda other than my well-being; and most recently, my children, giving from their hearts, from their own resources, gifts designed for no one but me.   Each a pure act of kindness, but none which could happen without their own special brand of valor when choosing to listen with their hearts and act.

Nothing touches me more profoundly than genuine kindness, authentically offered, with no strings attached.  Masterpieces in eloquence!  Uncommon gems of great value – beautiful, melodious symphonies upon the heart-strings.  Not accustomed to such grand gestures, I’m always moved to tears, rendered speechless, and have no words worthy of adequate response to these magnanimous altruisms.  Gifts of supreme kindness with actions in valor . . . ‘their price far above rubies’.

Most people do not consider their kind actions meritorious, but I most assuredly do!  Valiant, unhesitating, chivalrous, bounteous, without equal – timely gifts perfectly given – nobility at its finest.  I am humbled and grateful to be included in this honorable gift exchange program directed by the Almighty!  Considering how very little I have to offer in return, it always feels like winning the lottery!

How did they know?  How do I express their incomparable value and great importance?  How can I explain their incredible significance for me?  How will I ever manage to repay them all??   God chooses a few folks and endows them with uniquely wonderful talents as cannot be described, His Wonders to perform.  These truly are my ‘knights in shining armor’.  I am so grateful for each and every one.

Just a moment to say thank you

Today’s post was written by one of my English Composition II students, Crystal Riley, on the topic of the motivation of gratitude. I have known Crystal since junior high school. When God allowed our paths to cross again and for me to serve as her instructor, I felt truly privileged and have enjoyed watching her grow as a person and as a writer. I have learned at least as much from her as she has from me–isn’t this the beauty of teaching?

We all have had someone to wait on us and say thank you for your patronage. Have you ever really said thank you back to the person who waited on you in a way that was meaningful?  In my life I have had several jobs that required me to wait on people.  It is not a gratifying experience.  Sometimes I wanted to say, “Here is your crap, please don’t come back!”  I never did; I always took the time to force a smile and say thank you. I got so good at the routine that I caught myself sending off my unwanted family guests in the same way I thanked the unwanted customers who left the store.

There was an old man who came to the gas station every morning at 4:30. I made his coffee and waited on him every day.  I thought he sat in that booth sleeping until his friends came in shortly after.  All the old men would drink coffee and share stories.  My shift ended at 7:00.  Every morning just before I closed my drawer, he paid for his breakfast and told me I was a good ole’ girl or told me how good the gravy was.  He always said something nice; he even commented on how well I had shined the floors!  I never thought much of it.  I always just thought he appreciated that I personally filled their cups instead of making them get up to get their own coffee.  It was a small thing.

Later I worked at a video counter in the local grocery store and missed the old men from the gas station.  One night my old man came in, and I waited on him and his granddaughter.  He had been left to babysit.  I helped them select a video, and as he was paying for it, he thanked me.  He had a genuine smile and kind eyes.  He patted my hand and told me he knew I was a nice girl.  It is a crazy thing that the way he said thank you to me just made my day even if the praise didn’t come from my boss.  I told him I just loved waiting on him and how nice he was.  He responded that it costs nothing to let someone know that they are doing a good job, but it could mean the world to the person doing the job.

I thought about him often and what he said.  I’ve had some of the worst jobs you could imagine, and I think about my co-workers at times, and how awful things are for them. I make it a point to say thank you when someone helps me, to take that extra moment to let them know I appreciate them.

It only takes a moment, and it may be the only kind word that person hears all day.  If we all just take a moment to offer a word of encouragement or take a moment to simply be kind, we could all make a world of difference in how someone’s day goes. I never knew that old man’s name, and he never called me by my name, but I think about him because he was so nice, and his extra words of encouragement made my day nearly every day.

Why gratitude?

I asked my Composition II students to write a brief essay explaining their motives for expressing gratitude and offering at least one example of a moment when gratitude was expressed to them or when they chose to express gratitude to someone else. This essay was written by my student Jessica Whitmire, who is always smiling. Students like Jessica make my job lighter and brighter!

My family has always instilled in me the concept of treating others the way I want to be treated. Generally speaking, if we are kind to others they will, in return, be kind to us. At times this does not always happen, but that cannot be helped.  The Bible tells us to help those who are less fortunate. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to help others when it is needed. I know that at times I have needed a helping hand or encouragement, and there has been someone there for me.

FullSizeRender-2My Granddad passed away two years ago but was in the hospital for two weeks before he passed, and the amount of love that was poured out on my family was immeasurable. People sent food and cards, constantly for those two weeks he was in the hospital and the week following his death. They came by the hospital and prayed with us and so much more. Without all the love and support I do not know if I would have ever made it through that difficult time. From that moment I knew that I needed to repay all the generosity and love that was given to me and my family.FullSizeRender

I feel that if everyone worked together and lifted each other up instead of tearing each other down, our country would be a much better place. There is too much hate and not enough love. Everyone has the ability to make a difference, and no act of kindness is too small or insignificant.

The gift of family

Today’s post is by one of my students, Derek Chandler, who wrote this essay in response to the question, “What are three gifts you have received in 2013, and why are they significant to you?” I will really miss having Derek on campus!

familyThis year has been a very hard year to just be thankful for something. With my dad losing his job and selling our house, things have just became hard. He has been searching for a job for several months and with no luck; it’s just added stress. Without my family, I’m honestly not sure where I would be. Of course I’ve stayed positive and tried to not let this affect me. For the most part, it’s worked, thanks to God and my family. I don’t expect a pity party, or look for attention. It is a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Like I said, it has been hard, but there is always something to be thankful for. First I would like to say I’m thankful for my mom. My mom is my go-to person or my rock. Whenever I was younger I remember her always tucking me in at night, making sure I got to sleep just fine. That is always memory I will hold onto and hopefully find a wife that would do the same for my kids one day. Whenever I had a bad day I could always go to my mom and talk to her. Talking to her was easy, and I could tell her anything, good or bad. She was always supportive of anything I did. She is very soft spoken with a very kind heart, always looking for good in people, even if they don’t deserve it. She wears her heart on her sleeve and does what she can for anyone in need. She is a blessing to me and my sister. Without her support and her kind words I would be lost in life with no direction. I am proud to call her my mom, and sometimes that term is loosely used, but without a doubt I have the best mom.

The second thing I am thankful for is my dad. Wow, without my dad I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today, that’s for sure. My mom is my rock, and my dad literally is a rock. He is a very sensitive guy, but won’t show just anyone. Of course that doesn’t seem very manly, but he is a tough guy. Along with my mom, my dad has taught me so much. I will never forget going canoeing with him and all the fun we had. Like my mom I could talk to my dad just as well. Of course he didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he was honest. He was straight to the point and didn’t sugar coat it. I’ve always respected him for that. I owe both my parents for pushing good moral values on me. That will get me farther in life than anything else I have learned throughout life. My dad has supported me for 19 years, my sister for 20 years, and my mom for 30. He has allowed for my mom to be a stay at home mom, because he doesn’t want her to have to work. He has taken on a huge responsibility, and losing his job has caused stress. He is a good man who wants the best for my family and me. I’m sure everyone feels like they have the best parents, but it’s not possible when I have them.

The third and final thing I am thankful for is my sister. With a five year difference in age, you can say we didn’t get along. That was when we were younger, and as time went on, we got pretty close. Since Dad lost his job, we had to sell the house. My parents packed up all our stuff, and family took them in so they could save money. My family live out of state, but me being in school meant I had to stay around for this semester. My sister and her fiancé without a blink said they would take me in until I finished school. Without my sister, I’m not sure how I would have finished school. This is such a blessing, and I couldn’t thank them enough for allowing me to move in. They have been supporting me since I don’t have a job. I have been trying to focus on school considering so much stress. I cannot repay them for the kindness I have been treated with.

Since my story didn’t start out so positive, it’s only best that it ends that way. The bottom line is that my family has supported me and helped me though this tough time. I am so thankful for them and the nice things they have done. I will be officially moving from Arkansas a few days before Christmas, and it will be hard, but this only marks a point of a fresh start.

Day 25–A second chance

*Thank you to my friend Samantha Hogan for sharing her story and her husband’s story of how a selfless act by someone else gave him a second chance at life and love. Check out the video that documents this miracle.*

Photo by Bethany Wallace

Photo by Bethany Wallace

I am thankful for so many things in my life.  My God has given me so many blessings, so many do-overs, so many second chances at life.  One of my most prized second chances wasn’t exactly MY second chance, but rather, my husbands.  You see, my husband Curtis, was diagnosed at age 14 with something called Steroid Responsive Chronic Hepatitis Auto-Immune.  He went in to the doctor for a simple sinus infection and, a few weeks later, was having liver biopsies performed and multiple blood tests ran.

He was on medications off and on throughout his life.  He was healthy for a while and then got sick.  Very sick. Things that would make you and I need to miss a day of work and stay in bed hospitalized him for days or weeks at a time.  After several surgeries, procedures and medications, his disease had developed into cirrhosis of the liver.  So in May of 2008 he was put on the transplant list for a new liver.  We were told that even though he was sick, he wasn’t sick enough to quite need a new liver just yet, but he’d be at the bottom of the list- unless he got sicker.  Talk about not knowing how to pray! Do you pray for a new liver, which means your spouse gets sicker?

We waited, and time passed, and Curtis got sicker, then better, then a little sicker.  It was a roller coaster.  One week he’d spend in the hospital, one week at home. Back and forth. Then we got the call. June 21, 2009.  Father’s Day weekend.  We hurried and rushed to Memphis.  We had been told in our counseling and training classes that the first time we were called he would most likely be the back-up for the person who ACTUALLY received the organ.  For us, God had other plans.  The surgeon told us when we got there that he had called three other people who were higher on the transplant list before calling Curtis and all three had turned down the organ.  In case you’re wondering, you don’t turn down an organ if you’re on a transplant list.  The doctor told us in his entire career he’d never seen anyone say no, but three people did.  I believe it was divinely appointed to my husband.  For his second chance at life.

His surgery went better than expected with no complications.  We were told his hospital stay would most likely be 2-4 weeks.  He was there seven days from start to finish.  Now, three and a half years later, he is healthier than he has ever been.  He is able to work full time.  He plays out in the yard with the kids. He doesn’t get as tired.  He still has to be careful when the flu and illnesses come around, but overall, he’s as healthy (or more so) than I am.  What a faithful God we serve!  My most prized second chance was the second chance he gave to my husband.  The second chance to be a husband, son, and father.  Thank you God for your blessings!

I would like to note that it does not go unnoticed to my family that another family lost a loved one so that my husband could have his second chance.  They chose to turn their tragedy into hope for someone else.  I could never thank that family enough.  Although we do not know all of the details surrounding the donor, we know she was female, close to my husband’s age (32-33 at the time), and had a family of her own.  I am forever grateful to that selfless family who chose to give life in their time of sorrow.