Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Intention ...

Upon finishing Seth's latest episode of Akimbo, "It's Not About The Chocolate," I continued sipping my coffee and pondering what it means to care about our work and, for that matter, whatever it is we do.

I do things as I do them because that's what I do. Yesterday, I was at Mom's and one of my brothers came by to zip around on the lawn mower and cut the grass. Afterward, he weed whacked spots that he couldn't reach with the mower – he weed whacks in advance of mowing, which makes sense, but he weed whacked after, too – and then he grabbed the leaf blower to clean up the stray grass on the sidewalk and driveway. Mom looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you kids aren't afraid to work."

I mentioned that I'm prone to my share of lazy days but she clarified that when we do something, we do it well. Correctly. Completely. We're not "It's good enough"-ers.

Yup.

So this morning, upon listening to Seth, my mind drifted back to Christmas many years ago when I was dating a guy who lived in a high-rise and everyone on the floor left gifts for every other tenant. It was charming. He'd arrive home to find little somethings hanging from his doorknob or tucked into the nook of the door frame and door. Some folks bought things – I remember a box containing glass swizzle sticks from Pottery Barn – but one person baked. (At least one person; I may have missed some of the offerings.)

Now, being my mother's daughter, I don't eat anything made by anyone I don't know but the gesture was sweet.

And I judged it against my standard.

The person had made chocolate chip cookies, which by their nature are not "neat" cookies. They don't tend to spread evenly so the end result is often amoeba-like and can be, well, homely. The cookies had been placed into a zip-top sandwich bag and then that bag was placed into a little handle bag and hung on the doorknob.

As I sit here this morning, I'm pondering the story behind that offering. Maybe the giver didn't have the resources to buy a gift for everyone at Pottery Barn. Maybe he or she really wanted to share something homemade. The packaging was logical: zip-top bags keep cookies fresh. And most folks always have it on hand. Maybe the person wasn't able to easily get to the store. Maybe it wasn't a slapdash attempt to participate. Maybe it wasn't about getting off cheaply. It takes time to bake cookies. More time than it takes to pop into Pottery Barn and buy seven of the same thing, assuming an assistant wasn't sent to complete the task. Maybe it was the purest expression possible, a seemingly humble offering given with great love.

I am not given to materialism. My car is a 2003. (I have a great mechanic.) Every year when Christmas rolls around, if folks ask what I'd like, I tell them: nothing. Truly. I have so much. And they do nice things for me all year long, be they helpful tasks or picking up the tab for dinner and a movie. But we exchange at least token things and they want ideas. So, OK, this is a DVD I'd like to own.

But I'm delighted to receive handmade gifts. My cousins sent scarves for everyone one year. One bought the yarn, the other did the knitting. Some of my most treasured possessions were made for me by my niece and nephews when they were wee. Time and effort are worth more to me than the largest sums of cash. When my eldest nephew was six, I believe, he wrapped a shoebox for my mom. There's nothing in it. He just covered the box with scraps of paper and ribbon and each year, she places it under the tree. It is one of her most prized possessions. One of my brothers gave me "coupons" for help around the house, one work day each season. He'd help me regardless but that was my favorite gift from him this year. (He also bought the DVD. And other things.) There's a lot I can do and I could probably learn to do other things but he can change the oil in my lawnmower, thanks.

I do what I do the way I do it. Others don't. Because they do things that they do the way they do them, they way they learned how. The intention is the key. And when it stems from a place of love, it's perfect.

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