I often think that the most successful people in the world are not the ones who achieve world fame; they are not the ones emblazoned on billboards; they are not the ones who continually make the headlines.
No, the most successful people in the world are the ones who simply do what comes next. They somehow have the enviable ability to sift through the chaff and focus on the golden wheat. It doesn't bring them attention, but I'm guessing it brings them peace.
My mother has a friend whom I have long admired. She was a foster care mother for years, providing a home to many young people (one of whom was a young man with Down syndrome whom she still speaks of affectionately). Then in her forties, she married a widower whose 10 children she received with open arms. Her husband later suffered a stroke and she spent his remaining years tenderly caring for him. It must have been lonely at times to be so housebound in the winters of Manitoba, but her letters to my mother told of the warm socks she was knitting for the Ukraine and of the bright colors of the school children's clothes as they played in the snow outside the window. I think it is so fitting that her name is Mary.
I have a friend I think of often. She has dedicated her life to caring--first for her school students, then later when the need arose, for her father who had Alzheimer's, for her aging grandmother, and now, still, for her mother. She works quietly at home for a publishing company, and nobody sees the hours she devotes to simply doing what comes next. But yet she writes me letters of encouragement and laughter. What a gift she has--my friend, who is also named Mary.
I think of my grandmother. I wish I had known her. Her mother died when she was seven and she was left alone to cook and care for her father and brothers. Pioneering in North Dakota could not have been easy at any time, but it breaks my heart to think of her at seven doing the work of a grown-up. Because of this, she was only able to get a third-grade education, but later when she had children, she studied their school work with them and educated herself. I wish she knew how many things she taught me; how many truths I find myself quoting that my mother learned from Grandma Curtiss.
I think of Nevin's grandmother who became deaf at the age of thirty-eight and never heard the voices of her last two children. I think of how she gathered her courage, learned how to lip read, and stayed interested and connected to the world until her death at 102. I think of her words the last time she saw Wade not long before her death, "He looks like he's doing all right!"
Yes, he is doing all right. And it is because of the courageous and wonderful people before us who have taught us by their examples to simply do what comes next.