Her name was Myrta Glendora Trout. . .
To me she was known affectionately as Mama Myrt. She was my grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. She was far from perfect – a strong-willed lady as I recall; however, I loved her dearly and she loved me.
As a child, I would go visit Mama Myrt and Papa, my grandfather, for several weeks during the summer months. Little did I realize the lasting impact that those visits would have on me as I grew up over the years.
Looking back, I now realize that Mama Myrt was a deeply spiritual person – a woman of sincere faith. Her copy of the Wisdom of the Ages was well worn. Sound doctrine provided the infrastructure for her daily life.
However, there was a very practical side to my grandmother’s faith. She obviously believed that her spiritual faith without good deeds was of little value. My grandmother would ask me every night before bed, “Did you do a good deed for someone today?” You see, my grandmother was also a very compassionate woman. She strived to live by the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Over the years, she developed quite a reputation in the little community where they lived. If someone was sick, she was there with a pot of soup or casserole. If someone was hospitalized due to sickness or there had been a death in the family, she was there to offer comfort and prayer. She wrote countless letters and cards of encouragement to shut-ins and those that were discouraged and depressed – especially during the holiday season.
However, there was more – when I was bit older, Mama Myrt would send me to do little jobs for so-called senior citizens. Many a time, I was volunteered to mow the grass, pull the weeds or run to the grocery store to pick-up a forgotten item. She firmly believed no day was complete unless you had done something good or helpful for some one else. What a great role model she was for me. What a great lesson in life she taught me!
Then there was that day. The day I got brave enough to ask her the $64,000 question: “Mama Myrt, don’t you ever get tired of doing good?” I now refer to such weariness as compassion fatigue. It is a malady that I have personally experienced at one time or another. In fact, doing good or helping another can at times be difficult or demanding. It can leave one physically exhausted, mentally drained and emotionally wiped out. It may even require considerable sacrifice in one form or another.
Sometimes, it takes more than a casserole or a little yard work to help people. They may need groceries or financial assistance to pay their rent or utility bills.
They may need a place to stay until they can get back on their feet after a major illness. They may need help getting a job or transportation so they can get to a job. Or perhaps they require some professional counseling – some one to listen and offer helpful guidance.
In short, it costs to care. There is a price to be paid. There is a risk to be taken – but do it anyway!!
A number of years later, before she made her transition from this world, I had one final chat with Mama Myrt. By then her health was failing badly, her eyesight was almost gone and she needed at least some help from someone to do the most menial household tasks.
I remember asking her if she ever regretted all the time and energy she had invested in helping, supporting and encouraging others over the years and now she was virtually alone and dangerously close to being an invalid. She leaned over so she could see me better and took me by the hand and very softly said,
“I do not regret one day, one hour even one minute that I invested in a stranger, friend or loved one.”
I remember asking her, “Why is that Mama Myrt?” It was then she shared with me the two major principles that had guided her life for decades.
While still holding my hand gently, she said to me, “Every one of us has two choices in life.” and she proceeded to slowly but clearly share those two principles.
“First, we all have the option to live a self-absorbed life. We can spend our entire life fulfilling one’s personal desires and propensities that all revolve around me. Such a life can only bring a final harvest of ruin, disillusionment and deterioration. There will be no results of lasting value – only total loss.”
Or, she continued, “We have the option to focus on doing good – even when we may not feel like it.” At that moment, a comment of one of my professors flashed across my mind. In fact, he reminded his students of this many times over. In short, he told us . . . If you sow a thought, you reap an act; if you sow an act, you reap a habit; if you sow a habit, you reap a character; if you sow a character, you reap a destiny!
Before I go any further, I want to make something very clear. I am assuming if you are reading this column, you do good deeds and hopefully on a regular basis. Stated differently, I do not believe any of you do not do good deeds. I am not trying to zing you.
What I am trying to accomplish is to exhort and encourage you to make the best possible use of your time – make the most of every opportunity. We are all bound by the same time limitations – – – 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year.
Have you ever noticed how much more some people get accomplished than others? If you need something done, to whom do you go? You go to people that are busy getting things done. My observation in life has been some folks go through life merely reacting to those situations that cross their pathway.
Others are proactive; they make time or create opportunities by being intentional or deliberate in their efforts to do good.They don’t do good deeds just when they get around to it or feel like it.
Back to Mama Myrt’s question , “Did you do a good deed today?” At age 76, I still ask myself that question every day. On my daily planner, I have a place where I write “Good deed(s) for the day.” They don’t have to be big deals. Say “thank you” for the kind acts others do for you; extend a smile to a stranger; hold the door open for a patron going into the post office; share a happy memory with a loved one; assist an elderly person who may have difficulty getting around; tell a friend how much you value his or her friendship.
The list of opportunities is endless.
In closing, I would exhort you to . . .Do all you can do. . .By all the means you can. . .In all the ways you can. . .To all the people you can. . .As long as you can.
Have you done your good for the day?
Until next time. . .
— By Loren Simmonds
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.