2:14 p.m. I’m wandering the craft store looking for yarn for a gift/ project.Not hot tea.... but this needs a pic...
2:22 p.m.I panic-I realize that if I don’t get out of here- I risk a way-down the line -parking spot during carpool-that will involve having to count rows to find my car…which is almost math. #fail.

2:24 p.m. I grab good enough yarn and take my place in line. I calculate my estimated wait time. It’s going to be close.

2:28 p.m. Still waiting. Starting to get annoyed. I’m not the only one. “Can’t they open another register?”  So many people are saying the same thing I wonder if it’s a line from a new viral video….

2:30 p.m. I’m next in line. I hear the very raw sounding voice  of the very pierced and creatively hair-colored girl at the register. Her nose is red and sore looking…. I’m convinced she’s a a walking influenza factory. She probably is. I try to calculate how many virus particles are floating around her register. I wish I had a surgical mask.

2:31 As she’s ringing up my purchase, I have sudden onset iced tea and shortbread cookie craving. I immediately decide counting cars is worth it. I’m going to Panera.

Which is when I realize she’s not just a pierced virus carrying cashier…… she’s a human. With a sore throat. Standing right in front of the constantly-opening- in January- sliding glass doors at Michael’s. She’s trapped by responsibility and is obviously: miserable.

“You need a hot tea and honey on your break.” I state- as the captainess of the obvious, that I am. “Hot tea sounds great- but my break is too short.” I’ll have some when I get off work.” I wish I could tell you that i jumped over the counter, grabbed the mic, called  her manager and talked them into letting me finish the girls shift so she could go home without missing pay. I didn’t. Honestly? I was annoyed she was there- passing viral contagion to all she encountered.

I winced as she handed me my bag. I did not want to touch her germies. It was a little like being handed a bag of hanta-virus. At least I had my gloves. I slipped them on before taking the bag. I hoped she’d think it was just the weather- not personal. (Even if it was.I do NOT have time to get sick right now. Just saying.) In truth-she probably just wanted me out of the store. One less customer to deal with means one step closer to going home.

“Feel better.” I told her. More mom-like than I wanted to sound. (I can’t help it. Having a child makes you mother everyone you come in contact with. Maybe it’s viral…. I know I’m not the only mother-of all out there…I’ve been mothered by others- myself. ) It was not my most compassionate moment.

I left. Driving through the parking lot, the tea and cookie craving took over. It drove me straight to Panera. I didn’t bother looking at the clock. “I’ll get there before bedtime.” I thought.

By the time I was in the drive through- I was feeling like a selfish jerk. Here I was- totally NOT sick. About to suck down exactly what that poor girl really needed….

“I could take her a tea and honey…..”

“I don’t have time. I’ll be even LATER.”

“So? You’re late for everything.”

(In case you’re wondering- yes-I was arguing with myself. I like to- either way- I win.)

Which I did.

I rolled down the window and ordered: “I’ll take 2 large hot tea’s with milk and honey and a cookie.”

I drove back to Michael’s. I parked illegally. I went in the out-door.

And then- I made a very tough looking girl- cry. (I was on a roll.)  Accidentally. By interrupting her at work. To hand her hot tea and honey.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.” She said between either coughs or sobs…. (They were coughs. She had actually just teared up.  Crying would have involved tears- which could have frozen as she stood by that almost never closed-door, probably creating an icicle to form on her nose ring. Which may have caused frostbite. And probably would have caused her to miss work. Maybe. But, I doubt it, because the plague sure hadn’t. )

I left feeling… well. Conflicted. I felt good that I’d done something to ease someones suffering…. (In my brain- that’s what I did- but let’s face it- it was just a cup of hot tea- not a cure for Influenza.) I also felt: sad. Sad that that was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her. (Even ignoring the hyperbole- i’m sure nicer things have been done… but you get the picture.)

I felt a little puffed up and prideful. I was that chick. The amazing chick who brought a cup of tea to a sick chick.

Which made me feel: guilty. Cause really? duh. Pride has no place in care.

But at least I did: something.

Id love to say that God rewarded my awesomeness with that sweet first in line parking spot. He didn’t. I would like to say that I was on time and that angels carried my car through every light… Not so much. I’d like to say that my tea was still hot when I got around to drinking it. Nope. cold. Id like to say that my explanation as to why I wsa late touched my 10 year old and inspired him to be more considerate of others. Nope. he was mad.

I can’t even say God used his holy- GPS to help me find my car in the line-up. Nope. I totally wandered around and had to hit the stupid “panic” button. (Maybe more ethan once.)  I probably caused a kindergartner to lose bladder control.

But, I did: something.

Ghandi said (At least the internets say he said..)  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Elisa Morgan said: “She Did What She Could.”

I was, and: I did.

I hope you will and do- too.

Matthew 25:37-40  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Every day she totters the distance from her front door of her farm house, to her mailbox.  Her carefully coiffed grey hair is always appropriately, seasonally covered.  Sometimes by a stocking cap, other times by one of those amazing plastic origami-like rain-bonnets that fold into tiny rectangles and are stored in every grandmother’s purse. (Where do they get those?  i’ve never seen them in the wild…)

Her walker may have snow tires.  I’m not sure, but she makes that trek, every day rain or shine. It takes her about 1/2 hour, round trip.  (I may be even slower when I run.. maybe I should check into a walker for speed work?) I think she’s amazing.

Last week, while I was on my “wun” (walk+run=wun) I watched her  make her trek as I came down the road.  Maybe it was because I miss my grandmother.. maybe it was a holy prompting, but my heart said to : go say “Hi” and hug her.

“Hug her?” I argued with my heart.  “I’m sweaty.. besides, if I stop, my heart rate will slow down and muck up my work out…”

“Hug her.” Came the response. “If she’s close enough, when I get there, I will.” I countered.

It’s possible I slowed my already slow-motion run into a snails pace to avoid the hug. Honestly?  I didn’t want to have her hit the button on her “lifeline” necklace and have the police show up because I had accosted her at the mailbox… well.. that, and I didn’t want to look like a sweaty- nut.

My plan backfired. My slowed pace put me right at the mailbox as she was checking and rechecking it.  There was nothing there.

“Hi” I said, smiling and sticking out my (sweaty)  hand, hoping she’d heard my approach and fearing if she hadn’t, I was at risk of giving her a heart attack… “Hello.” She said “There’s nothing for me today. Did you see if the mail lady already came?  I thought she did, but there’s nothing for me.” Her disappointment was palpable. “Yeah, she already came by…” I offered.. knowing it wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

“Hug her.” Said that little voice, yet again. Tired of arguing with it, I swallowed my fear and stepped closer. (more…)

When tail lights started lighting up in front of my car and traffic came to a stand still, I got annoyed.  “STOP GAWKING, and GET MOVING!”  I said, to no one. It  had been one of those- “re-entry”  days.  You know, when you’re catapulted from the fun of vacation back into the orbit of your life and things get heated up, FAST.  Friction + speed (always) = HEAT.  My heat just happened to be in the form of attitude.

My husband had left for a quick business trip- and before he had landed at his destination, we’d already blown a fuse (of course the one with the freezer and camper- which I was TRYING to clean out at the time..) and had several games of  “How many neighbor kids can my kid bring in the house” claiming “rain” because someone had spit into the wind.

When traffic had slowed to a stand still then crawl, I had escaped the heat and the kids by declaring an emergency trip to the grocery store. (A mom’s way of spitting into the wind and claiming rain, I suppose…)

I saw the empty infant  car seat on the embankment, first. ( Funny how that caught my eye before the police cars and ambulance lights, did.  I am a hard core mom. ) My heart skipped a beat.  Then I noticed a mom holding the tiny one in her arms, with a preschooler sitting along side her, wrapped in blanket to ward off the drizzle that had started to fall.  A toddler held onto the leg of her shorts, somehow, knowing that now wasn’t a time to wander.  Their crushed minivan had become a modern art installment, in the foreground of the scene.

(more…)

I’m  starting to hate getting my nails done.  Not because of the $15 it costs me every 3 weeks, but because of the incessant live CNN coverage of the stock market that plays on the 60″ flat screen in the nail shop.  The stock market is not relaxing viewing, lately. 

Most of the time, I don’t pay attention to daily fluctuations- but during that 45 minutes?  I feel like I’m on a roller-coaster at some fly-by-night- here -today- gone- tomorrow- before- you -can- sue- for -damages, carnival. 

It’s not that we’re not being affected by the economy.  We live in  Michigan, and have extended family who invested their lives in the automotive industry in hopes of it’s paying them back in the form of pension insurance and stock investments in  their golden years. 

In addition to our extended family, my husband- while working in the computer industry- has specialized in automotive manufacturing software, for over 19 years.  Let’s just say…If there are 6 degrees of separation between everyone and Kevin Bacon.. there are 3 degrees of separation between everyone and the automotive industry.

EVERYTHING is connected. 

The 401K we were planning on rolling over into a new account?  Oh… it rolled over alright- and it’s NOT PLAYING , dead.  It is dead.

And yet- with the exception of that once in a while visit to the cheap nail place at the mall,  I’m not freaked out by the economy.  Am I in denial?  Am I ignorant?  Am I independently wealthy?  (Ummmm- no, I worry about my kids financial futures, (So far a job at McDonald’s- the ubiquitous first job rite-of passage- has evaded..even that is affected by the economic crunch. I drive a car so old that it is no longer manufactured, I have a kid in college (ka-ching!) and am a SAHM without income, along with most homeowners- my house has lost all the equity we’d made on it in the 9 years we’ve lived here.  None of which, equates to independent wealth. Like the rest of the world- we’re affected.)

But-  my primary investments are not in or dependant on the stock market.  No, I do not have gold bars or silver coins stock piled in my basement.(Unless the collection of empty or never unpacked from 3 moves- packing boxes could be considered gold.) I do not have a mattress stuffed with cash. (But, there might be a few missing socks in there…)

My primary investments, are in people.  I invest in my family- of course, but also in the people I meet.  Both IRL and URL.  These are investments that NEVER lose their value.  It isn’t always cash investment, (Although, I help with that when I can)  much of it is “sweat equity.”   Time and work I’ve invested in others:  helping, caring and sometimes, just being there.  It might be a note, a phone call, cookies baked and shared or help with life coaching or a problem that needs some perspective…sometimes?  I’m just good for sharing a funny story.  Things that matter and make a difference to one person at a time.

The bummer is, these investments don’t show up in my stock portfolio. (If I actually had one.. does an almost valueless 401K count?  Hmmm…can your 401K actually turn into 401 “D”…for DEBT?  I’m starting to wonder… ) Or maybe- that’ not such a bummer.  Could I really place a cash value on these things? I’ll tell you…the care- support and investment others have made into MY life, could not be valued in terms of cash.  If they could – I wouldn’t be able to afford the debt load, that’s for sure.

While I was sitting there watching the stocks dip and climb like a mountain range, I couldn’t help but wonder what a NYSE or Dow Jones Industrial Average of Human investment would look like…. I wonder what my portfolio would look like?    Honestly-I feel much more confident in my investments in people than in my financial investments. I’ve got a pretty diverse and strong portfolio there. I’ve done some risky investing that has really paid off- not just for me- but for the people I’ve invested in.

A peek at my personal investment portfolio:

1) A calculated risk nearly 20 years ago to choose to be a SAHM.  (This risky investment, I will never regret.. but like most investments -might not be right for every portfolio)

2) An investment in my marriage- to work and stay and choose to love regardless of the economic climate of the day…

3) An investment in ministry either part or almost fulltime for most of my adult life- whether in MOPS International where I help moms survive and thrive and connect- or as a pastoral counselor or writer… these are investments of time and heart that have never declined in value.

4) Diverse small investments in people I meet on-line, in line (at stores, the gas station the pediatricians office) and all the time… these are investments of all kinds- from a word of encouragement to a mom with a crying toddler to a coffee bought for a cold “going out of business” sign holder on the corner…

5) Well thought out, long term investments of resources (emotional, physical and spiritual) to special people God brings my way… these could be the sharing of a talent I have (anything from baking to photography) to help someone else, or the extra time and attention that a supportive relationship costs to help grow, encourage and build another human.

Youmight be feeling a little ripped off at this point. Maybe you “Googled” investments and found yourself here… reading the raving of a lunatic mother who think she’s making a difference.  Maybe you feel like this is a pompous , self righteous do-gooder touting her own horn. 

Well- the only horn I’ve ever played is the one on my steering wheel and the one with the red rubber bulb on my purple tricycle when I was 5.  It’s not my style… however- sharing my hope- is.

I believe the reason why I’m not constantly (but do have moments of that stomach dropping to your feet feeling)  riding the rickety roller-coaster of economic emotional turmoil- is because I  invest in people… not the Dow Jones.

If’ you’re tired of riding the roller-coaster…my advice to you is to change your investment plan.  ALL of us have resources we could share. Not just cash.  We have  skills, time, talents, love and care that could make an incredible difference to someone else.

Let’s not wait for an economic turn around, let’s MAKE one.  One person at a time. Sometimes people ask me why I do the things I do…. I have this as my answer….People matter to God.. and they matter to me… ALL people. They are His treasure… and what I chose to invest in.

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.