Maggie’s first job

My daughter earned her first $1 bill today. Is that legal? Surely not. Well, it happened, nonetheless.

We enjoyed lunch after church at a local diner. Our waitress, a young, cheerful woman who told me she had a five year-old son, went out of her way to express kindness to my daughter, and I was thankful. She brought Maggie chips before our meals arrived. Any parent understands the magnitude of this gift (if this doesn’t happen, your child morphs into some sort of monster in 5.2 minutes). She entertained all of Maggie’s detailed questions patiently. Maggie enjoyed her gigantic flower-shaped pancake, coated in margarine and syrup, and had a grand old time. After the meal, the waitress jokingly asked Maggie if she wanted to help clear the table to help pay for the meal. And lo and behold, Maggie agreed to help.


She jumped up from the table and followed the waitress around, asking what she could do to help. My mama heart burst with love and joy, watching my daughter serve. She didn’t expect anything in return—she genuinely wanted to clean, serve, and assist our waitress. Our waitress allowed her to help clear the table and then gave Maggie a $1 bill as a gift for helping out. Maggie thought she’d won the lottery and beamed from ear to ear with pride, clutching the money and her stuffed puppy dog, Homer, as we headed to the car, waving goodbye to our new waitress friend.

I remembered all the times that week I’ve felt grumpy and cantankerous about doing laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and loading and emptying the dishwasher. How many times had I begrudgingly washed my daughter’s hair or felt annoyed that I couldn’t enjoy my coffee alone in the afternoon? I specifically recalled feeling disgruntled about trying to hurriedly finish editing a presentation while Maggie attempted to crawl in my lap. And while I have to extend grace to myself–because parenting is difficult, and I am not perfect–I can also learn a lot if I watch my daughter closely. Maybe if I attempt to approach life with just a little bit more of her attitude of service, enthusiasm, and joy over what seem to be tiny moments, I’ll feel less overwhelmed, less disgruntled, and less annoyed when I’m juggling parenting, housekeeping, friending, and working. And maybe if I find pleasure right where I am, I’ll also feel a little less brokenhearted when she slams the car door and walks into school morning after morning, year after year, in just a few short months.



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.

Day 26–Expect good things

*Thanks to my friend and former fellow volunteer, LaTresha Woodruff, for serving as today’s guest contributor. LaTresha wrote this piece for her co-workers on her two-year anniversary at her current job as a public information officer for a local police department. Hope we will all learn to expect good things in our lives, just like LaTresha!*

GOOD MORNING!!!!  HAPPY THURSDAY.  Hope last night went well and that you are expecting good things today.  Patrol worked very diligently last night as they do each night to keep you safe.  Continue to support the men and women who protect and serve us each day.

Please allow me to tell you all a little story.  I wake up each morning and tell myself and those around me to “expect good things” and I often tell you guys.  I just believe a great attitude of expectancy lends itself to a great day.  If “not so good” things happen, with your great attitude you are able to overcome them.  Well this morning I woke up and told myself and my running buddies to “expect good things.”

latreshaWhile getting dressed I was just bound and determined to wear a flower, I had no idea why, since I don’t do it often; last time it was for a church event.  But I listened to that voice and wore my flower.  I got to work and a co-worker in my morning inspiration group asked,”What’s today?  January 31st?” and I answered, “Yes, oh my gosh, this is my 2 year anniversary with the Police Department!”  He said, “and you have made a great impact.”  I proceeded to recite something I say to people all the time, especially those who start to get anxious about their jobs and may have low morale… “Bloom where you are planted right now.”

Then it hit me!!!!  I wore the flower unknowingly because of my anniversary, and I believe that I have been able to bloom where I am planted.  I love working here at CPD, and I put everything into my work and will continue to come up with better ways, new ideas to get this wonderful department, it’s officers and programs more grounded in the community; after all that’s why CPD is here, to protect and serve you.  So on my 2nd year anniversary, I pledge to do all I can for the department and this community.  Thanks for welcoming me 2 years ago and for the support you give to me and this department!  I look forward to many more anniversaries.



*Special thanks to Debra Dickey-Liang for serving as today’s guest contributor!*

My Mom and Dad were always two of the hardest working people that I have ever known, and they taught their children those same work ethics. They also taught us honesty, integrity, strength of character, and what it means to be part of a family. They passed on their many gifts to us as their children. Yes, I was very lucky!

I recently came across this aphorism:  “The purpose of life is to discover your gift.  The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”  Wow!  That particular truth is mind-boggling.  Hey!  My parents did a great job!

ImageBecause our livelihood was farming, we didn’t take vacations.  But one summer when we were teenagers, my Dad surprisingly bought a boat and water skis!  Now, you would have to know my Dad to understand how completely out of character that was for him, (not to mention the expense) but let me tell you, we packed up the back of the truck many times with camping gear and cooking supplies, drove to the lake, and had a BLAST.  Only years later did I learn from my Mom that my Dad had just decided that that would be a great way for us as a family to do something fun together. Isn’t that amazing?  Gifts. 

As the oldest in a large enough brood, I helped look after, take care of, and was counted on for almost every aspect of our family life.  So whether by nature or nurture, my “gift” turned out to be caretaker.  (Look that up in your thesaurus sometime – the definitions are boundless!)  So yaaay!  I know what my gift is!  But wait!  I have only discovered half of the lesson . . . .

Hmm….a caretaker.  These are just a few of the interesting synonyms that my thesaurus mentions:  a person who maintains something, an interim, a guardian, an observer, a watch-keeper, a guide, a good listener (I just threw that one in there because it should be on the list).  Yes, those all fit nicely into what my life has been all about!  I like it.  But how do I, or have I, gone about giving my gift away?

Turns out, it was simple!  I became a Mom.  Yep, that’s all it took!  Not that my own children are the only beneficiaries of my gift, because I was already a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, and a responsible person, so interestingly enough, you will very often see me with a little buddy, seemingly drawn to me by some sort of predestined magnetism which I have learned to value and appreciate.  Mine truly is a gift, my gift, a gift that I wish to use wisely, remembering to cherish its meaningfulness and its worth from The Giver of All Gifts who saw fit to bestow it and grant me the opportunity of Service within it. 

*I’m grateful for my friend Debra for sharing her gifts with me as her friend–and thanks, Debra, for sharing your gift of writing with us.*

Who you are is who they were

Yesterday, I sat in a quiet room for five hours, surrounded by musty old books and newspapers.

As I conducted research at the mecca for Methodism in our state for one of my grad school courses, I was lucky enough to meet two kind women who run that section of the library. They volunteer hours of their time each week to help people like me find what they’re looking for.

Both women offered to make copies for me, gave me a free download of three out-of-print history books, and even tried to convince me to eat what they’d brought for lunch because they thought I needed a snack. They were working and giving out of their hearts and serving in a way that many people don’t want to. One of them has been working in the archives for over 20 years.

Why would someone do that–spend all those days spent amongst old books, scanning documents, placing photos in protective pockets?

The woman who has been there for over 20 years told me, as I was leaving, that she loves history, particularly the history of her faith. She said, as she pointed to her desk, “See, I keep that sign with me. It says, ‘who you are is who they were.’ We can’t forget that. We have to know who they were.”

As I left the library, I felt grateful for the opportunity to learn a little about who she was: a grateful, diligent, hard-working, patient, giving, and passionate woman.

I’m hoping her quote will ring true for me someday.Photo by Phoopla