The most absolute, crystal clear, important lesson I’ll ever learn in life came from my mom, a woman with schizophrenia, on the edge of a breakdown, in the middle of a house that is literally falling down around her.
“What do you need mom?” I asked, feeling desperate.
I was hours away from climbing on a plane to go back home to Florida, so we were both extra sad.
The question was loaded.
I already knew what I wanted her to say.
In my imagination, she might have (she should have) shouted “I want a new goddamned house! I want to not have this disease anymore! I want a million dollars and a walk in the ocean and a five-star restaurant meal! I want my life back and my college degree and a normal, storybook family with apple pies baking and my own car that I can drive and a fucking loyal dog and soft carpet and a spa-like bathroom.”
I’m not even sure why I wanted her to say those things.
It would have been crushing to me.
Maybe she does want all those things, but she’s my mom, and she loves me, and she knows what’s in my head and heart already when I ask.
So instead, she answers back with what she knows I can deliver on.
It’s one thing I can give her with everything, over and over and over, without running out, ever.
I need to confess that the clip from this video was too painful for me to even watch until just recently. It’s been more than a year since I shot this footage and I knew what was there, but I haven’t wanted to look at it.
Maybe I wasn’t ready to receive my mom’s message to me until just now – when I have the clarity and strength to hear it.
When I made the first video, the one that began this project, I just wanted to give my mom my love. It was the ONLY thing I had to give, and she was the only person I wanted to give it to. But she refused it.
She wasn’t taking my calls.
In desperation, I guess I kinda “gave it away,” to the internet.
“Here, people of Facebook – take my love for my mom and my lessons she’s taught me. It’s all I have to give right now.”
What I have learned about love and giving it away in the few short months since I started this project, is that when you feel the most low, the most afraid, the most desperate and hopeless, you need to give away more love.
Give a hug to someone when YOU need one.
Give your last dollar.
Send a postcard when you feel loneliest.
Extend the grace that nobody has given you.
Withhold your judgement of someone even as you are being judged.
GIVE MORE when you have the least, because your strength will grow from giving it away.
I know this is true, because I’ve heard it from everyone writing me, thanking me, telling me they are grateful for this project, and my mom and our family. I know this because I can see love being extended not just to me personally, but among people supporting one another in the comments on my FB page.
A little bit of love for my mom, given away into the big space of social media grew so much bigger than it ever could have if I had held it inside. I had no idea about any of this when I did it. But now that I know, I want to share my lesson.
And you know what?
Don’t be modest – do something kind for someone, and share it. Talk about it. Tell your friends. Tell ME about it.
I like to hear stories of people who reach beyond themselves and then aren’t embarrassed to actually brag a bit about it. It feels good to help people and it’s inspiring to know there are people out there gaining strength by going beyond just themselves. And you know what? Share your story and I’ll read it to my mom.
I’ll give her the details and she will hear my message to her:
“Mom, your love has spread far and wide. This is what your love has the power to do.”