By the time I was in my mid-teens I had a fairly detailed list of what my mom was doing wrong. I’m not sure if the list was actually written down but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. For sure it was in my fuzzy teen head.
Of all the things that made my list, my mother’s most abhorrent offense was the way she always referred to “other people.” As a self-centered, “it’s all about me” teenager, I could not have cared less about “other people.” Who were these “other people” and why should they make a difference in my life?
And yet my mother would not give it up.
“Cheryl, if you want to stop and talk while walking on the sidewalk,” she would say, “step off to the side so that other people can get by.”
The sidewalk rule also applied to escalators and elevators. “Cheryl, do not stop right in front of the elevator’s open doors! Move off to the side and decide where you are going so that other people can get by.”
In a store she would say, “Cheryl, don’t mess up that pile of t-shirts! Other people will want to look through and will never be able to find their size if you make such a mess.”
At the library she would remind me that other people needed to get into the card file — yes I’m that old! — and that I ought to hurry up and find what I was looking for.
When I became a teenaged driver, my mother had loads of new reasons for me to be concerned about other people. “Make sure you give enough space between yourself and other cars in case other people want to get in your lane.”
Clearly, my mother cared about other people more than she cared about me. I can well remember mixed feelings of sadness and anger at this thought. I so desperately wanted to be selfish and care only about myself and all the while she wanted me to be aware of, and apparently care about, “other people.” I felt so betrayed and although I never actively thought about having children of my own, I was convinced that should I ever have them, I would blaze my own mothering trails. I would never put “other people” before my own children.
Then, as so often happens, there came a time when I was, officially, my mother. Her concerns for other people became my concerns. Her desire to care about the needs of others became my cares. Her words to me and my sisters became my words to my sons and my students.
As Mother’s Day draws near, I realize that I am now of an age where my memories are softer and sweeter. Where once my frustration about my mother’s nagging intent that I care about other people drove me crazy, I am now reminded of my heavenly mother’s concern for other people, as well. And I am grateful that my mother persevered in her interest that I pull myself through the selfish teen years to become a caring woman and mother myself.
I have always been amazed at the idea that Mary could have knowingly given her Son so that we — the “other people” — could have salvation. She did not put her own self, or her Son’s interest, first. She knew that other people needed Him and she loved, raised, and nurtured Him in such a way that when the time came, He gave Himself for us — those often nasty “other people.”
He, who knew no sin, took on ours. While I realize that this was the reason for the Incarnation, I can’t help but appreciate that God would have been fully aware of the ways Mary’s behavior as a mother would have lent itself well to Christ’s journey and purpose.
Mother’s Day is a day when we celebrate the beauty and love that is motherhood. We put aside our lists and our frustrations and simply allow ourselves to be filled with love for our mothers — knowing that God chose them specifically for us and our journeys.
May, fittingly, is the month we celebrate the motherhood of Mary, whose own selflessness causes us all, for at least one brief moment, to really consider ways we ought to care about other people.
Happy Mother’s Day!