One Good Mama One Bad Mama

One Good Mama and One Bad Mama

This is a tale of one good mama and one bad mama. I am the good mama.

My youngest son works at our local Ingle’s running the U-scan. That’s a grocery store. He’s worked there for 2 years earning spending money for college. I was buying groceries, and I did what I always do, stop to chat at the U-scan, and give him money for snacks. He was helping a woman who looked to be in her early 30s, and she got confused when he said goodbye. Was he talking to her?

“Oh, that’s my mom,” he said. “I’m just telling her goodbye.”

“That’s your boy?” she asked me.

She had blonde hair, was smallish in build, and if life had been kinder to her, she’d be stunningly beautiful. But, poverty was spread over her like a ratty blanket, and the lines on her face were too old for someone so young, not to mention the missing three front teeth.

“Yes, he’s mine,” I said, smiling and shaking my head. My goofball son was cracking jokes with the managers.

“You raised a good boy,” she said. “He treats me with respect, and is always kind to me. Some days, I come here because nobody else is ever nice to me, and I know he will be. He makes people feel like they matter.”

She had my full attention now. I’d been sort of half-talking to her. and half-watching my son. Her eyes were big and blue with a hint of the little girl she used to be. I grabbed her arm. “What is your name, please?”

“Amy. It’s Amy. Your son. You raised him good. You raised him right.”

That’s my son, alright. His heart is tender toward everyone. Especially those who are poor, who are overlooked, ignored, discounted. Oh, the friends he has brought home. Like lost puppies.  I was so desperately proud of him right then that I had to call a friend and brag on him. I also hugged Amy and cried standing in front of the automatic doors, so they kept opening and shutting while I was hugging Amy and crying.

I work in a store, too. A garden nursery that high end clients frequent. We’re busy making custom wreaths and swags and centerpieces for ladies who are having huge Christmas parties this weekend or next. Ribbon flies out the door, made up into festive bows: Bows for valences, mailboxes, mantles, gifts, light posts and tree-toppers. I listen to tales of just returning from England, or Italy, or France, or wherever, while I hot-glue red berries onto Fraser fir. It’s fun to pick out ribbon and colors for the garland, and chat while making up holiday greenery.

Today, a lady, about my age, who’d just moved to our mountain city from London, England was doing what I’d done the night before–bragging on her son–a college student at Fordham University who’d just scored a job on Wall Street.

“One thing is for certain,” she said, “He won’t come here.”

“Oh, why is that?” I asked.

“The rednecks, the uncouth ignorance that abounds below the Mason Dixon line. It’s too much for him. It’s really too much for me,” she said as if she was not insulting me, my family and every friend I ever had.

Because I prefer to keep my job, I kept my mouth shut and did not say what good Southerners say in that situation, “The road that brought you here will take you right back. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

Just FYI before I carry on with my little tale of good mom/bad mom here: We Southerners do not care what you think about us. We never have.

Here’s what I wanted to say to her, even more than how she could find her way back to bloody England, one good mama to one bad mama, “You did not raise your son right. You raised him to be unkind, to be disrespectful, to shun others who aren’t his “equal,” and to look past the person and only see their circumstances.”

And if I had really gone redneck on her, I’d have said, “So, you raised a snobby little brat, did ya?”

I didn’t say any of that because we’re in a recession and I need a job. But I am saying it now because I am proud of my son, and his ability to see Amy, and not just her circumstances. I am proud that he knows everyone is deserving of his respect, and that kindness can make a person’s day better. It can make them feel like they matter, because whether you live above or below the Mason Dixon line, you do matter. We all do.

So one good mama to one bad mama: I am proud of my son who isn’t on Wall Street, but is on the U-Scan at Ingle’s helping folks like Amy feel like they matter. Really, in the big picture of life, does anything else matter?




The Goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living

I don’t know if fear is the undercurrent of most people’s life, but it definitely is mine. I’ve lived long enough to know that there are things to be frightened of. In fact, I am more astonished that the world is as safe a place as it is–most of the time, or at least my little corner of it–than I am that horrific things can and do happen to folks daily. Inhumane acts don’t surprise me, but nice people do.

I know, sounds all bitter and cynical, right? Maybe.

Recently someone did something nice for me.  She cleaned my car. We had traded cars for the day because she was doing something else nice for me; taking my car to get it serviced. Granted, we were using my car for a joint road trip, and my job doesn’t allow for errands or car servicing, so she volunteered. When we traded back, she proudly showed me her handiwork. My car, the one that hauls plants around, the one you could likely grow a plant in, was spotless. I hope I was appropriately grateful, but I may not have been, because I was stunned.

I don’t say this to paint a picture of how pitiful I am, but no one, outside of my family, has ever done anything on that caliber of kindness for me before. It was work that took quite a bit of time away from her day. How crazy is that?

To be truthful, and thus look a bit less pitiful, recently again, this time at work, I was grumbling about a co-worker to a co-worker. The person I was grumbling too, kindly reminded me to be kind. It was a good reminder, and I appreciated her forthrightness in setting me straight. Kindness is a virtue I am learning. I want to be kind, but really, I think I want others to be kind first, then I’ll be kind.

But, maybe, they’re waiting for me.

It seems to me that fear is not spurred by the actions of others toward us, but by their indifference. During my divorce, I was terrified of my future. How would I support myself? Where would I live? Could I parent and grandparent alone? All of that was big, scary stuff, but the most fearful component was not the unknown, but the new and complete indifference my ex regarded me with. The man who made sure my car was cleaned and serviced for 20 years, was now the man who wanted me out of “his” house. Watching that transformation was frightening. I could have used a bit of kindness. I wanted to scream at him, “Hello, my name is Cinthia!” I wanted to be seen, even in the process of dissolving our marriage, which is what I think kindness is, seeing someone.  Even the person who is mean. Even the person who participates in making the world a scarier place, because if you can see the image of God carved out in that person, then surely, you can see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

And, maybe, be kind first.