There’s a German proverb that says, “Sweep in front of your own door and the whole world will be clean.”
That’s good advice. If we worried about taking care of our own dirty doorsteps (choices, lives, children…) we wouldn’t have time to worry about anyone else’s.
I had such an interesting chat the other day. I’d popped into a little shop to pick something up on my lunch break. The lady working there apologized because she’d had to bring her little daughter in to work with her; the babysitter was sick.
I didn’t mind. That tiny, little girl was adorable! She was only just over a year old and tottered around the store jabbering at me. Every now and again, she would tilt her head and give me a sparkling, mega watt, tiny chiclet, toothy smile. My heart melted. And when she put her arms out for me to pick her up…well I could have spent the rest of my day with that little angel.
Even though the mother looked close to my age, certainly old enough for this to be her last child, I asked, “Is she your first?” The answer was yes, she was the first and the only child.
Turns out that little angel was a gift sent from heaven…one mother’s precious miracle.
She was smiling a little wryly when she said, “You wouldn’t believe how often I get asked when I’m having another.” Oh, yes, I could imagine. I’m sure all kinds of people have asked her that question and then offered up all sorts of opinions on why every child needs a sibling.
She needs someone to teach her how to share her toys.
Your siblings are your first friends.
She’ll be spoiled without a brother or sister to give her a little loving competition.
When her mother and father are gone from this world, who will she have left?
Not one is a valid argument. Yes, her life will be different without siblings, but I’ve got news for you. That’s okay.
We actually had a lovely chat and I hope when we parted that she felt like at least one person out there wasn’t judging her choices. I don’t think she ever intended to only have one child. I’m sure when she was younger she probably envisioned a bigger family for herself. But, it didn’t happen that way. Life walked her down a different road and she seemed content and at peace with it. It’s too bad others can’t recognize that and let her be. Instead she feels as though she needs to defend herself.
Not long ago, I saw this quote.
Just because I’m not on your path, doesn’t mean I’m lost.
There’s a lot of truth in that simple statement.
There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past year. I feel like I’m in a state of growth and learning. I’m feeling less constricted by some pretty conservative and conventional boundaries that felt comfortable for a long time, but now…well they just don’t fit anymore, so I’ve opened them up to make room for new ideas. It feels good and it feels right.
Somewhere along the way, too many of us have gotten the idea that the only right path is the one we’re on and we tend to stand in judgement of anyone who walks a different path. I have been guilty of thinking that, and worse – behaving as though that were true. Sometimes I am a little ashamed of how judgmental I have been. The hope though, is that when you know better, you do better. I’m trying.
I’m trying to let those around me travel their own road and enjoy their own journey. I’m trying to keep my opinions to myself unless they are asked for. Even then, I am considering my words carefully.
Each and every one of us has our own path to walk and our own lessons to learn. Who am I to think that I know best for everyone? Who am I to think I have all the answers? Who am I to think that my way is the right way? I struggle enough with my own choices and the consequences that come with each decision I make. Besides, tying myself in knots because someone has made a decision that I don’t agree with only brings on unnecessary anxiety and sleeplessness.
What I can do is show love and compassion when decisions made have unintended negative and perhaps painful consequences. I can be there to help you get up again, dust yourself off, and encourage you to keep trying. I can be your cheerleader, your friend, your supporter.
I can also help you celebrate when things turn out well. I can say, “Wow! I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, but you did it!”
I can wave to you while I sweep my own doorstep, smile, and wish you well.
I can do that.