The Best Things Mom Taught Me

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in my life. I wouldn’t be the man that I am today without you. But as much as I love each of you, this one goes out to my mom, Evelyn.

Mom and the baby girl feeding fish.

Narrowing down all that you have taught me in our short time together is nearly impossible, mom. You taught me to climb trees. You taught me to make homemade biscuits (but mine were never very good). You taught me to pick up after myself (which, I still only do when you’re coming to town, by the way). You taught me to say thank you to everyone who does anything for me. Ever.

So coming up with just one thing, one best thing, that I learned from you mom is hard, but I think I’ve managed to narrow it down to at least two.

It’s funny that most of what we learn from our parents, we learn when they’re not trying to teach us anything at all. We learn it when we’re all just going about our business, dealing with our feeble attempts to just make it to the end of the day. (This is something that I try to remember with my own kids, but I usually screw it up.)

But since this is true, then the best thing I ever learned from my mom, I think I learned when we were all working together in The Sandwich Shop in the Mall.

For about six years or so (I can’t remember exactly; it was many miles ago) while I was in high school and college, mom and dad owned The Sandwich Shop in the Statesboro Mall. It was here that I think I learned my most important lessons from her during the times when she was too busy to actually try and teach me anything at all.

If you’ve ever owned a family business, you know that the vacations, holidays, and even just days off are far too rare. So you adjust to schedule, and push through. This was how we operated at the Sandwich Shop. Working until we could pull the gate closed at 9 when the mall closed, rushing home to make the chess squares for the next day, dragging in before opening the next morning to make the salads.

Food service, in other words. It was hard, but somehow, Mom, you always found a way to uncover the joy in making sandwiches, chili, salads, and of course, sweet tea.

And so the best thing I ever learned from you mom was two fold. First, you should always find a way to love the work you have to do. This, maybe more than anything else, has served me well as I also worked in jobs that weren’t always my first choice. Because of your leadership, I still found a way to love doing sleeve jobs on tuxes before prom, calling doctors about jobs in a telemarketing firm, selling software, staying up all night at children and youth lock-ins, struggling to meet a deadline for a grant, and grading endless stacks of 101 portfolios. If you could find joy in slicing tomatoes every morning, I can find it in a well-written sentence.

But the second thing that you taught me as we served food together was that a life of service to others is a life worth living. And that, Mommy, is the best thing you ever taught me. (So far.)

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.