My mom picked up her needle and thread and started working on the hole on my jeans again. This was her 5th time working on the same hole. Because of the length of our travel and the restraint in space, our limited clothing wore out quickly. Within months my jeans thinned out to the point of no return and everyday new holes would appear or old patches would break again. Despite this hopeless cycle, my mom was still willing to put time and effort into fixing my pants when even I had given up. It is such a spirit that kept me going many times in life when I wanted to give up. My mom is far from perfect, but willingness and humility are two qualities of hers that has left a deep impact on my life.
My mom is always willing to go the extra mile. Whether it is sewing our clothes, giving us a long waited massage, or cooking gourmet meals, she doesn’t think twice about it and gives us all she got. Even when we were in Jordan and the electricity went off, she continued cooking dinner in the dark with a flashlight and the weak glow from the streetlights. I’m always astounded at her willingness to do more than what was asked of her. Whenever I asked her for a cup of tea, often it would take her a while, but I would be surprised to find not only a cup of chai latte but also a side platter of cookies and snacks. Or when I ask for a massage, it would be close to 11 when she gets to me, but she is still willing to try her best. These may be all little things, but it is all these little things that added up to the miles long love she has for me. Now, every time I hesitate to go the extra step for someone, I remember all the “extra miles” my mom went for me.
Another trait I admire about my mom is her willingness to talk to people, even strangers, and share her story transparently. I remember how we met some local students visiting an Israeli student village and we were taking turns sharing about our dreams and what we wanted to do in the future. When it came to her turn, she started with how at age 10 she set a goal to publish her first book before the age of 50. Then she continued to share how after she married my dad and moved to China, it was hard to find her own foot hold and balance the role of wife, mom, and just being Annie. As a result, when she started a cake business with one of the village girls we were helping, it became something really special for her. She got to do what she loved, experiment with different kind of cakes, and even have something to call her own. However, after a while she realized the business was taking away from her spending time with us, her kids. She bargained with God, “It’s not fair that if I have a professional job, then I loose on my kids. If I choose my kids, I can’t do the business. Can’t I have both?” But God was firm, “No. Your kids are the first priority. If you invest in them I promise to pay you back double in return. Don’t you trust Me?” And so she gave up the cake business, became a full time homemaker, and even home schooled each of us. As the students heard her story, I saw them sitting at the edge of their seats, engrossed with every word she said. It was incredible to witness my mom at age 45 sitting with a bunch of students she barely knows in Israel, showing them her newly published book about our travels 8 years ago, and sharing her story. They were deeply touched by her journey, how her childhood dream came true, and her relationship with God. It never mattered to my mom when or where she was; what’s important is that God gave her a story and she is willing to share it. In the same way, I am willing to share her journey and inspired to tell my own.
She might be willing to do things for me or to share her story to absolute strangers, but what speaks love to me the most is still her willingness to be patient and spend the necessary minutes to build a relationship. I remember on the day we were traveling from Austria to Hungary, I felt awful. Perhaps it was because I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or I was exhausted from our constant traveling, but I walked along with a tired heart mixed with feeling blue, depressed, and everything in between. Once I got to the bus, I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t even know why. I felt that I looked funny, sulked over the fact that I only had sweet things for breakfast instead of salty, and that no one enjoyed my company, which I knew wasn’t true, but that only made me feel more stupid. It went on like this for an hour until my mom noticed and came over.
“Are you ok? What’s wrong?”
“Is it because we are traveling so much, so quickly?”
“No… Maybe…I don’t know! I don’t know, I don’t know… I’m just not happy.”
“Is there something I can do for you?”
“ I don’t know.”
“Maybe some caviar and crackers?”
I nodded my head—at least it’s something salty. And just like that for the next 15 minutes my mom kept pasting caviar on crackers and I kept on eating it. Despite my outbursts she stayed with me and continued faithfully feeding me everything salty she could find. Minute by minute and piece-by-piece, the clouds lifted and I felt better. I must admit I was not the nicest person to sit next to that day, but my mom didn’t mind. And that meant the world to me. What my mom taught me is true love comes at the expense of time and patience, but people are always worth the while.
I have tried my best to develop all these qualities, but the hardest one for me to model after is her humility. She is so good and prompt at saying “thank you” and giving credit where it’s due. Whether it is carrying the grocery or helping her with power point presentations, she always makes sure to look you in the eye and say a heart-felt “thank you”. I like her thanking me for things, but what touches my heart more is still when she says “sorry”. I rather receive an apology than give one myself. However, my mom believes that whoever says sorry first gets God’s blessings first. No matter whose fault it was, she would often be the first to approach me and say “sorry”. When I was younger I would just accept it and leave it at that even though I had a part in it too. Only when it became my turn to say “sorry” to other people first did I realize how humbling it was. It means swallowing my pride, my rights, and my “justice” and admit my part in the fight first. But then I remember all the years of my mom saying “sorry”, especially when I didn’t deserve it. That’s how she loved me. And that’s how I’m learning to love others.
The extra cracker besides a cup of tea, hours long conversation with strangers, calm gentle tones, her willingness to sit by me no matter the circumstance, and her humble “sorry” are what I think of when I think of my mom. She may not be the smartest, quickest, or most experienced, but she is always the most willing—willing to go the extra mile, willing to share her story, willing to be patient, and willing to be humble. Through her, I am humbled to be willing.