November 28, 2014: Motive

Me and my fur (furry friend, in this case)
I think a lot about motive these days. Both mine and that of others. Assessing life choices, I always challenge myself with understanding the underlying individual motives.

Purity of motive is golden and makes decision-making easy. Working through personal that's a whole different story.

It started at a young age when I had to think through whether my new friend, Mary, really wanted my friendship or if she just wanted to hang with my older brothers. Motive? Likely brothers.

As an adult, the stakes got bigger. Somehow personal agendas expand. Understanding motive has became even more important.

Then there are times when motive is gray. The gray area is the toughest. Do I want to give to that charity because it's the right thing to do or do I want my name displayed prominently in their flyer? If my motive was completely pure, would name recognition be necessary? Hmmmm...that's a tough one. There are good arguments either way.

I learned a lesson in that murky gray area of motive twelve years ago. Our intentions couldn't have felt more pure at the time, but a less-than-stellar result hit me square between the eyes. I will never forget this lesson learned.

I was with my young family in Arizona visiting my parents. Mom and I felt moved by the holiday season and wanted to give to others less fortunate. I wanted to teach my boys to give back to others. Although I thought my motive was to help others, I was more worried about appearances and being the 'good mom'. This is where I hit gray.

We baked and shopped, filling bags with toiletries and small Christmas treasures. We felt like over-achievers as we chose our gift recipients; a former co-worker of mom's who was in need, an Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home, and a homeless shelter.

Zach, Ben and Grant were 9 years, 6, and 2 at the time. I dressed them to the T's in their matching Gap attire. Excited for our Saturday afternoon of playing Santa, Mom and I dressed up as well. As though I was attending a Broadway Christmas show,  I dressed in my favorite Diesel jeans, stretch leather high-heeled boots and topped my outfit with a little black fur stole secured around my neck. We collectively looked great as we took on our community service.

The first stop went well. My mom's friend was completely surprised and grateful for the treasures we delivered. She enjoyed seeing my mom with her cute grand-kids and dolled-up daughter. A win-win visit.

Next stop. Alzheimer's unit. This was less successful. The patients were advanced in their disease state. The wing was full of cries and strange odors with no recognition to a human face, let alone a young one.

The boys were scared and the impaired elderly truly got nothing out of the experience. They needed care, not an unfamiliar family tracking through their familiar hallways. Some research ahead of time would have likely steered us to an assisted living unit instead.

Last Stop. The homeless shelter. Here was my fail and a lesson I will never forget. For reasons I cannot remember, the kids were not allowed in most rooms. Likely a little better research would have helped with this as well.

My mom and I walked around the shelter handing out our gifts and chatting with the residents. As I walked through the kitchen, I noticed a woman sitting at the table smoking a cigarette. Handing her a gift, we locked eyes. Beyond the worn wrinkles and the many scabs on her face, I saw a woman of my same age.

She asked why I was there and I explained that we had gifts we wanted to share. She looked me up and down, taking particular note of my crisp jeans and commenting on my fur stole. The look in her eyes was one I will never forget. It was the look of shame.

"I was a model once", she told me ."Everyone told me I was pretty". She went on to share how she once had nice clothes and a job where she could take care of herself and buy nice things too. And then there were the wrong friends and the wrong choices and finally, a meth addiction.

The addiction was obvious in her frail demeanor and sunken face. I could see the pretty somewhere deep behind it all and tried hard to look at her with the acceptance she deserved. She was reading my eyes as well. My clothing choice was a fail as I gave off an air of superiority, but the authenticity of my eyes in hearing her and believing her could make up for my wrong.

I have never felt so small in my life as I did when I realized how my 'showiness' made her feel. My motive in being super-mom and ultra-chic community servant came at an expense. And that expense sat at the kitchen table of a homeless shelter.

We were no more than two humans, both with our own failings, sharing a bit of life for that ten minutes in time. I could have listened all afternoon to her model days and favorite clothes. And that's what I did. I just listened. The shame in her eyes eventually went away as did the guilt for my motive.

Purity of motive is a powerful thing. It can sure make life easier if we use it as a barometer. Unfortunately, it's typically difficult to unravel. But it can be accomplished, fur stole or no fur stole....


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