Earlier this year my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her struggle has caused me to reminisce more than I might like to admit. The other day I recalled a lesson that she taught me when I was eleven that seemed relevant given her diagnosis. Just like many of the lessons she taught me over the years this one was very simple but important. This particular one taught me to see the world in a whole new light and forever changed my life.
When I was in seventh grade there was a girl with cerebral palsy named Cindy. I was pretty certain, as certain as an eleven year old without any experience with women can be, that she had a crush on me. For some reason that I can’t recall or understand I was embarrassed or almost mortified by her attention and interest in me. There were girls I was interested in at the time, but Cindy wasn’t one of them. We went to the same church and our families would get together from time to time. I enjoyed playing with Cindy’s younger brother, but dreaded our visits because it meant yet another uncomfortable encounter with her.
My mother has always been very observant and intuitive and as a result she eventually pressed me to share my feelings about Cindy. I’m not really sure how I described my feelings or remember what I said at the time, but the lesson she shared with me has stuck with me ever since.
That day my mom asked me to consider the possibility that God might ask each of us to carry various burdens for one another. Some of the burdens we’re willing and capable of carrying and others we’re not. What if God asked Cindy to carry the burden of having cerebral palsy so I could serve him in some other way? What if Cindy wasn’t a victim, but a hero, a hero who carried a burden for my benefit? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for me to treat her with respect and appreciation for her willingness and strength to carry a burden I was pretty certain I wasn’t capable of dealing with?
My mother’s lesson resonated with me. It made sense to my underdeveloped pre-teen brain and it caused me to see Cindy in an entirely new light. It didn’t cause me to develop an attraction to her, but it did cause me to want to become her friend. From that point forward I began treating Cindy with respect but more importantly appreciation. I imagined that her sacrifice was personal. A sacrifice made for me so that I might accomplish something God had in store for me.
My mother’s lesson has stuck with me my entire life. It has changed how I look at the world, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder what burden I have agreed to take on or what sacrifice I have made. Then I think of my children. Maybe I was put on this earth to make them. Maybe they are my purpose. The only thing I am sure of is that my mother forever changed my life — for the better. I love you mom. And thank you Cindy…
About The Author
Alexander Muse is a serial entrepreneur, author of the StartupMuse and Sous Vide Science, contributor to Forbes and managing partner of Sumo. Check out his podcast on iTunes. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.