We often admire the big names, the personalities, the people in positions of influence. But in so doing, we sometimes forget our own significance.
I am currently in Malta. My mother’s native country. A place I have had a varied relationship with throughout my life, and a place I have come to love and appreciate deeply. Last night, I went to the church my mother used to take us to as children. I had gone to say hello to a dear old neighbour of ours – she always had gentle wisdom to impart, oftentimes in the form of a smile. The choir was in the middle of practice and as I sat there I was greatly moved, not only by their voices and the amount of effort and practice they put into the songs, but by the passage of time. This was the church with so many events: first holy communion; confirmation; the baptism of my cousins; the funeral of my mother and countless confessions. In those moments I was overwhelmed with and grateful for the journey of life.
As I observed the ladies in the choir I was reminded of another facet. These were the ladies whose doors my brother and I used to knock on as children doing ‘bob-a-jobs’, little errands to raise money for the scouts and other countless initiatives we got involved in at school. These were the girls who were with us in our religious classes. It reminded me and brought home that regardless of our background or our upbringing, we are all doing the best we can with what we have and see in front of us. No-one is better or worse than anyone else. We have nothing to prove. Only to be and do the best with what has been bestowed upon us. I wonder if all those people realised what an imprint they had on our lives as a family, me as a person and the role they played in nurturing our spirit.
My mother was an extraordinary woman, with strong values and the courage to live by them. As I get older, I understand with greater depth the lessons she used to impart, and with every passing moment I smile, realising that there is very little she did that wasn’t a lesson.
One particular summer when we were living in Saudi Arabia, I asked my mum to teach me how to knit. An odd thing to do in summer in the blazing heat, granted, especially in my friends’ eyes, but I wanted to know how to knit. So my mum, with all her patience, started to teach me the craft of knitting. I was making a sweater, black, with two cables on either side. From time to time, my mum would take over, reviewing the work I had been doing.
“Deb” she used to say, “be mindful, you keep dropping a stitch. Make sure you have all the stitches.”
So at the end of each row, I would go back and count all the stitches, ensuring I had not dropped anything along the way.
There I was thinking I was learning how to knit, which of course I was. But I learned something else too. I first needed to decide what I wanted to knit – the shape, the size, the colour, the thickness and so on. I had to choose the type of yarn and quantity that would enable me to create what I wanted. And I had to have the skill and tenacity to follow through. I also had to overcome the cajoling from my well-meaning and fun-loving friends :-).
These traits are no different from the traits we need to establish in the lives we want to create for ourselves. In our rush through lives and our focus on a particular outcome, we sometimes forget elements that are important to us – our loved ones, our friends, our health. We even forget experiences that shaped us, that developed our strength, our character. We can forget certain skills or gifts that we have. We can even forget what matters.
So in planning your life, your career, your education, or whatever it is that is important to you remember these steps, and please, above all, don’t drop a stitch.