Peer. Technically I know how to define that. In actuality though, I have a hard time telling who the peers should be in my life. The problem is that I think everyone is just like me, and that they think just like me. From their age to their taste in music to their income… doesn’t matter! I assume every client in my chair from the 21 year old to the 65 year old is my peer. The credit belongs to my mom. She raised us in such a way that though we had much less, we believed that the lifestyle we had was pretty regular.
What would you think if I told you that I grew up in a trailer park? (“Trailer trash.” I despise the term. Use that term in my presence and good luck getting me to tune in for the next 20 seconds. Not possible. I’m too busy trying to swallow spit and loathing.) What would you think if I told you that when we moved out of the trailer park, we moved into an apartment complex where drug busts happened next door and guns shots went off in the laundry room?
The amazing thing about my mother is that she never let on. She never let on that we had anything less than anyone else. I didn’t know what ‘subsidized housing’ meant. I remember loving being on the third floor of that apartment. Looking down from the window made me feel like a princess in a castle’s tower, for one. And for two, I was so impressed with my little legs once I got the hang of racing up the steps two at a time (that’s the staircase equivalent to taking off your training wheels!).
I supposed everyone used food stamps and coupons. (That’s just good sense, right?) It wasn’t uncommon to be donated food here and there. And all the bags of second hand clothing that were handed to us by church members? Shoot! How could I possibly think we had less when I was diving through a jumbo sized trash bag of clothes?
I’ll spare you too many details. Suffice it to say, my mom not only raised three of us on her own, but she did it with excellence. She didn’t shelter us in order to keep the bad out. How could she? We were right smack dab in the middle of ‘the bad’! No, she sheltered us in a way that even when pain and poverty were looming, our sights were set on greater riches (not the kind that come with dollars).
What’s so impressive to me is that she never believed that having less excused us from extending ourselves to others in any way that we could. On one Easter Sunday I perceived that one of our neighbor kids might not have an Easter basket. I collected and gathered from my own stash and quietly left my Easter basket at his door. (This was at a time in my life when nobody had explained people’s aversion to unpackaged candy. I don’t know if my mom noticed the loose jelly beans rolling around the basket. If she did, it wasn’t worth mentioning… not when I was busy learning what is was to practice thinking more of others and less of myself.)
Not only did Momma frequently chime, “Suzanna, stop feeling sorry for yourself. You have a lot to be thankful for,” she made sure that we knew just how rich we were. We worked odd jobs – babysitting, house cleaning, etc – so that we could raise enough money to participate in volunteer mission work overseas.
Boy, that will make you feel rich. Try feeling sorry for yourself when you’re working at a youth camp or at an orphanage or in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.
No, seriously. Try it. I did. It didn’t work. Feeling sorry for myself backfired and I ended up with a little something that I like to call “The Thankful Game.” (And don’t forget that I love to win.)
To be continued…
(Part Two here.)