If your house is anything like mine, the closer we get to Christmas the more I hear “I want…” from my children. “I want an Xbox One, I want Legos, a new baseball bat, a hockey bag…” The list is endless!
I don’t take away the wishful thinking from my children- I have plenty of fond memories of my own as a child combing through the huge Sears catalog that came every fall (yes, I just dated myself!), circling more toys than could possibly fit in our home.
And I was very fortunate to get the games, dolls, strollers, etc. that I did.
But as much as I want to fulfill my children’s every desire, like most parents, I also want them to appreciate what they get. Basically I want them to be humble with what they already have and accept what’s given to them graciously.
Is that really too much to ask?
Unfortunately sometimes it is. We’re constantly being targeted by marketing campaigns that cleverly tell us we need their product to enhance our lives. How can we decipher what’s really important?
It also makes me wonder if humility can we be taught or does it just happen naturally?
I believe it’s a combination of both. But trying to teach it is much more difficult mostly because in order to be humble we need to show our vulnerability, which many of us, myself included, may not feel comfortable showing.
Yet, it’s the exposure of our vulnerability that brings out our humanity and connects us with one another.
In my experience, in order to teach my children how to be humble, I first had to figure out what it really meant to be humble.
One of the steps I took was turning to a trusted source, my dictionary, to figure this out. This is what is defined as humble: low in rank, importance, status, quality, and having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservient.
Wow, with those kinds of qualities, why would I ever want to be humble?
But as I kept reading, the definition transformed: not proud or arrogant; modest, and courteously respectful.
The latter definition brings to mind some of the greatest leaders known for their humility: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and being a Christian, I believe the greatest teacher of humility is Jesus.
So even though I can wrap my arms around the teachings of these wonderful leaders and can relate to being modest and courteously respectful, I still find times where I don’t want to be inferior or subservient… Really, who does? I don’t think that part of being humble can be taught.
And this is where life (or whatever higher power you believe in) stepped in and served me many slices of humble pie, some small and some too big to digest in one sitting.
One that I’ve been served time and again is with respect to my son who was born with special needs.
Shortly after he was born he underwent a necessary battery of tests, including an echo-cardiogram at 6 weeks of age to make sure all the chambers in his heart closed properly (they did). At 9 months of age he had to undergo multiple EEG tests and a CAT scan to determine if he was having seizures (he wasn’t). When he was 3 years old he had his second surgery to put tubes in his ears and remove his tonsils and adenoids. It all went well.
I was more than thankful each time results came back in our favor. I wanted to rejoice at our good fortune. But as I walked the halls of the different hospitals we visited, I learned to be courteously respectful of others who weren’t so fortunate.
We had many visits to Children’s Memorial hospital in Chicago and Phoenix Children’s hospital in Arizona. Each time I walked the halls I saw courageous children being pushed in wheelchairs or pulled in wagons with oxygen tubes and feeding tubes protruding from their little bodies. Children who had no hair as a result of chemotherapy. Children who had to spend Christmas in the hospital.
Yes, my son was the lucky one. On those days I was grateful for being low in rank and priority with regards to an appointment with the doctor.
And then Larry got sick.
It was our turn to walk in the shoes others had filled. We consulted with doctors at John’s Hopkins and Mayo Clinic, and as they delivered devastating news at each visit, they remained courteously respectful. They had the education and years of experience to hopefully heal, but there came a time when even they knew they couldn’t cure the patient and they knew the odds better than we did.
This experience gave me the greatest lesson in humility I could ever learn: the loss of someone who meant the world to me.
I wanted to crawl into a hole and fade away but the parents where my children went to school wouldn’t let me. Some had experienced a similar loss, others simply wanted to help. They sent me emails, cards, meals and gifts that were truly unexpected.
I graciously accepted every meal, card and gift given and I was touched beyond belief.
Parents I didn’t even know very well reached out. That’s when I understood humility transcends race, gender, religion and age.
As human beings we are all vulnerable at one point or another in our lives. It’s our greatest connection to one another. It also provides the catalyst we need to want to help others in times of need.
So as a parent I will do my best to “teach” my children to be humble, but I also know life will teach them more. It already has.
Because of this I know they’ll be happy with what they get, albeit a little disappointed (no Xbox One!) but appreciative none-the-less.
And I know it sounds cliché when I say I have everything I need (mostly the people I love and who love me) but it’s true.
There’s still a piece of humble pie I take a bite of every time I write a post and reach out to all of you. I know you’ve had your share of pain and heartache as well and I pray this website provides an avenue for us all to stay connected.
Our stories may be different, but we’re all a part of humanity.
Instead of my usual sign off I will turn to the words of one of the leaders mentioned above, Mother Teresa:
“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”