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Mother Knows Best

What advice did your mother give you? Kitty Slattery remembers the most important lesson from her mom.

Kathryn Slattery

I read somewhere recently that the loudest voice a child will ever hear belongs to his or her mother.

I know that when I was growing up, my mother had lots of advice and opinions–and certain sayings she repeated so frequently that I came to think of them as “Mom’s Maxims.” In no particular order, they went something like this:

“Don’t be a snoop.” (Most often intoned around Christmas and birthdays.)   

“Remember, you represent the Brinckerhoff family.” (‘Nuff said.)

“Only a fool tells all he knows.” (And no one wants to be a fool!)

“Know when to leave a party.” (This one was intended more for grownups.)

But there was one of Mom’s Maxims that stood apart from all the others, because it was something I watched her put into action, day in and day out:

“When you’re feeling blue, count your blessings and do something nice for someone else.”

The first time I heard my mother say this, I remember hoping it didn’t mean that every time she did something nice for someone else (which was quite often), it was because she was feeling blue!

Even now, the first image of my mother that comes to mind is of her standing in the kitchen wearing her favorite blue gingham apron, her red hair dusty with flour, wrapping cellophane over a pretty paper plate of fresh-baked cookies or chocolate cake to take to a friend who was “down in the dumps,” dealing with an illness or grieving the loss of a loved one.

The effect of my mother’s brief visits–she stayed only long enough to drop off her gift of comfort food and offer a hug–was to let friends know, quite simply, that they were loved.

When the day came that my mother’s failing vision meant she could no longer drive, she gave me the honor of assisting her with these deliveries. And when the day came that she no longer had the strength to bake, she still found time to write encouraging notes and leave cheerful phone messages for her many friends. 

My mother did these things right up until the day she died.

Looking back, I believe that it was simply her nature to reach out to others with kindness. It was instinctive. As it says in the Bible, her “left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing” when she baked those cookies, arranged them on a pretty plate and delivered them to her friends. It was, in the end, an extraordinarily beautiful and unselfconscious demonstration of putting love into action.

And it was, by far, the most important thing she ever taught me.

So on this Mother’s Day, when I find myself feeling a bit blue because Mom isn’t here, I’m going to take her advice and count my blessings—starting, of course, with being grateful to God for giving me such a good mother!

And what about doing “something nice for someone else”?

I hope that sharing this story with you has helped to do just that.

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