Perhaps the greatest influence on my life has been, and continues to be, my mother. The most important thing in life, according to her, is generosity. Although I am sure that she would have liked to do more with her life when she was younger, she put that all on hold to be sure that my siblings and I had everything we needed and most things we wanted. She also taught us responsibility and value, demonstrating the importance of hard work and setting and achieving goals.
It was nothing she ever harped on, but by her example I learned that there was nothing I could give away that I hadn’t earned myself, and that there was nothing I could truly own that I hadn’t first deserved. The method by which she demonstrated this was by working harder than she needed to in order to always be able to be hospitable, and by showing that hospitality to those who had been kind and who appreciated it.
To this day she still believes that a thank you, whether verbal or in written form, is the highest form of good manners. Those who did not show appreciation would not again avail themselves of her generosity. This, she told me, was not because she needed to be recognized for what she did, but because she felt that those who were rude and did not show appreciation were not positive influences on her life. Therefore, she felt it best to limit contact with those people.
I remember one day when someone came by the house to pick something up that my mom was either giving or lending her. About a half hour before this person arrived, mom was trying to put together some snacks to offer her. Mom was so upset that there was nothing in the house except for potato chips, and she apologized to her friend about it. Her friend said that she needn’t worry about it, and mom had already been more than generous. But no matter what, it was never enough for mom.
Once my siblings and I grew up and moved out, mom remarried and was finally able to do things for herself. But still, she makes sure that we have everything we need and most things we want. I never ask anything of her, and always say that I have all I need when she asks, but that doesn’t stop her from being generous.