“The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving. Even the simplest food is a gift.”
– Laurie Colwin
“I’d rather go home and die near my family than stay here another minute, away from everyone. I just want to be with my family.”
That’s what my grandma told me, repeatedly, as I sat in her room at UAB hospital. We knew she didn’t have much time left. Time is a cruel companion, swift and running through the good times and a dragging crawl in the darkness. The days were short but the minutes were long as she sat in a suffering silence with a heart that was no longer fully functioning. All she knew was that one day at home with those she loved was better than many days in a hospital without them.
I had stood in that kitchen many times throughout my life. In fact, I probably scooted across that very floor as a child, before I was even able to walk. I had run through it on many Christmases, making my way to the backyard swings. It was the site of many conversations, many laughs, arguments, questions and heated debates.
But today was different.
Standing in this kitchen, that I had stood in hundreds of times, today I noticed how disheveled it had become. Two distinct worn-down portions on the kitchen floor caught my eye. A faded area marked the path from the stove to the cabinets.
The pulsating hum of the oxygen tanks in the living room resounded in my ears as I wondered what kind of love compelled acts of caring so numerous that they left their marks forever embedded on the kitchen floor.
We spend so much time full of regret, disappointed in how much we’re not able to do. We forget that a truly extraordinary life is often found in the small things. The details we don’t want to remember because we’ve convinced ourselves they are somehow menial or unworthy. The washing of dishes or the folding of clothes. The changing of the hundredth diaper or the cooking of food that makes people crinkle their noses. We watch as the world idolizes people for the wrong reasons and we convince ourselves that our worth is found in Facebook likes and Pinterest-perfect recipes when, all along, true value and heroism have been evident in the small, everyday tasks where we give a portion of ourselves to someone else.
The world needs less flashy, less dramatized versions of heroism. Sometimes heroism is the quiet strength of a woman providing for those around her without hesitation, without question, and with great resolve. Her name will never be broadcast from news stations around the world, yet she was a hero to those for whom she cared.
Heroes exist who rescue and save lives without ever being publicized. There are heroes who mend hearts without scalpels, repair wounds without gauze and defeat enemies without weaponry. There are heroes whose eyes will never see the glowing lights shining down from a stage and whose face will never be broadcast from a television screen. Yet their presence can mend a broken heart and their kindness can restore a weary soul. Their laughter fills your emptiness and their words can ease your pain.
But in the end, her heart was tired.
Mine is too.
I’m tired. Tired of a disease-ravaged body, full of scars and devoid of hope. Tired of the knot in the pit of my stomach left by those who no longer walk this earth. Tired of a world full of grief and lies, where people are more concerned with themselves than for each other. Tired of the hate, the fighting, the racial tensions, and politicized versions of a watered down Christianity. Tired of the menial, humdrum activities of life that we deem important when they aren’t.
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”
But then I’m revived.
Revived by worn out tiles in a tiny kitchen that remind me of the unbroadcast, unpoliticized, simple but extraordinary love that exists in our every day. Revived by the knowledge that the negativity in a commercialized, politicized, technology-driven society will never deafen or defeat the simple, meek, continual acts of love of and sacrifice that will never be shown on my social media page or my computer screen. Revived by the evidence of a love that plants feet so firmly they wear down the tiles on a kitchen floor.
Her floor was worn.
She knew that her worth was not measured in shiny objects, the newest gadgets or the monetary value of material possessions. She prioritized people over things while living in a buy-now, me-centered, latest-and-greatest society. That’s what made her extraordinary. Not shiny floors, vaulted ceilings, or material wealth. Not social media shares or celebrity status. Just raw, sacrificial, small acts of service to her family and those around her. If the world had that kind of love, imagine the place it would be.
I hope that one day my floors will be worn.