Friday, August 9, 2013

Come One, Come All

A few weekends ago I hit the road (gosh I've 'hit the road' a lot lately...) to head to Wilmington for a wedding.

Mark, the younger brother of my best friend from college, was getting married.

Mark is five and a half years younger than we are, and his bride, Katy, is three years younger than he is.  So it might have seemed weird that the 'college friend of the brother of the groom' would be on the guest list.

But not for the Hams.

I met Matt my second semester of college, his first, when we were paired up in the same small group in our Young Life leadership training class.  And that was all she wrote.

Matt is one of the greatest people I know about keeping up with people.  And for someone who is, well, a boy (historically you have to hunt those down to even know if they are still alive), married, the father of 3 v-e-r-y young kids, is in the middle of building a house, and is crazy busy with work, this is even more impressive.  When anyone talks to him, they are what he focuses on, and when he asks how you are doing and what is going on with you, he asks because he cares and he actually listens to your answers.  In a time where folks look at their phones instead of into your eyes during a 'conversation', this is always so nice.

I would say that he makes a great effort at being like this (which he does), but I have learned more over the years that it isn't even an effort - it's just how their whole family IS.  Matt married a girl like this when he married Liz.  His brother is like this.  His new sister-in-law is.  His parents are.

I got to Liz and Matt's house and in the complete tornado of trying to get the boys to the car, Liz still stopped and gave me a huge hug and a "It is SO good to see you" before she kept going on her tear of making sure she had everything.  (I actually think the first thing she said was "Oh Lord Jesus they's a fire" which I will remember forever.)  I walked into Mark and Katy's rehearsal dinner to take photos and enjoy the celebration, and was excitedly hugged by all of them, and then their godparents, then Liz's mom, and then their uncles, and then their cousins, and then by the sweet girl who babysat for them growing up.  In all of the 13 (good GRIEF) years that I have known the Ham family, I have felt like a member of that family.  But the thing is, I am willing to bet that EVERYONE feels that way about all of them.  When you get a "It's so good to see you" or "We're so glad you are here" from one of these people, they MEAN it.  People say this stuff all of the time because they are supposed to.  But you can just tell when someone really means it, can't you?  Can't you tell the difference between an obligatory hug and one with some genuine love behind it?

When you go to Wilmington and there is something going on with this family, you will be included.  I've been a part of wedding parties and baby showers for Matt and Liz, of course, but also of family beach weeks and family 4th of July celebrations and so much more over the years.  And at any of those things, the number of people that weren't actually related to anyone in the family was always huge.  It's how they operate.

On my drive home I thought about my drive down there - how on my way I was thinking that I would likely just sort of do my own thing at the rehearsal dinner and the reception because Matt and Liz would obviously be busy, and really I wouldn't really know anyone else there to hang out with.  Silly me.  Silly silly me.

Instead I spent a weekend with dear, dear people.  In all they had going on, Liz and I really did get to catch up, Matt managed to take me to lunch on Saturday, I sat through the wedding with the world's cutest ring bearer in my lap, and did The Wobble (I know, seriously) out on the dance floor with the whole family just like I was one of the gang.  Because that's how they are.  When I told Matt's mom goodbye, I thanked her for including me in everything.  With a quick wave of her hand, she said "Oh don't thank me, you were on Mark's list from the beginning."  Once you're in, you're in. :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Winning & Losing

I headed out to the Little League fields today to watch Spencer and Sam - who both had 3:00 games - play a little baseball.  It was a playoff game for Sam and the championship game for Spencer, and they were playing on neighboring fields.  

Ann Parke, her mom, her dad and I went back and forth and back and forth between the games and tried not to miss anything from either of them, but that's hard to do when there's so much going on.

Spencer has always been one of the more coordinated kids I have ever known, and every sport he has tried he has just 'gotten'.  He's a natural born athlete.  He's at the age in baseball where these kids have really figured it out and grasp the intellectual parts of the game as well as the physical, and they really love it.

There was quite a crowd and sadly, the game got away from them and they ended up losing.  At this age, when kids lose a game like this they don't flip out and throw fits like younger kids might...instead they are heartbroken.  Sweet Spencer was crushed.  He's got one heck of a big heart and every ounce of it was out on that field at the end of the game.  He was beside himself.  I was so glad I had my sunglasses on so my own tears wouldn't be on display.  I know that all kids need to lose sometimes and learn to be graceful about it (which they SO were), but it just plain hurt to watch.  This team is a team full of GREAT kids and they were just so, so sad.  But in the end, they all took it like champs.  

Meanwhile, Sam's game went a little bit longer, so we were able to catch the end of it.  They ended up winning (yay!) and I'm not sure that at first any of the kids realized it, so their reaction when they did was just adorable.  Sam went flying out onto the field in a batting helmet that ended up going sideways in his excitement.  I'm not so sure he could see where he was going, but he was pumped.

When he came out of the dugout after, he headed over to us and lifted his eyebrows to Spencer as he was walking towards us, asking "Did y'all win?" without saying a word.  Spencer quietly shook his head no, and Sam, who was close enough to talk now, said, "Oh, well that's okay."  So precious.  Of course I teared up again. :)

Oh, I just love these boys.  So much.  I can't imagine how their mom feels, because I feel like even I have blinked and they have gotten so big.  I'm so very fortunate that I've gotten to watch them grow up so far, and I can't wait to keep going...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Oh Y'all, the Tears...

It goes without saying that I love kids.  That's a little like saying that fish love water and that my daddy loves football...things that are so obvious that it seems ridiculous to even have to say them...

A good while back, I happened to see a quick status update on Facebook from my friend Liz, who is a friend from high school.  She is a speech specialist at a school in Washington, in a town right on the edge of Seattle.  She mentioned that her low income school could really benefit from some extra, unused "Box Tops for Education" if anyone had any.

I didn't think much of it, but then a couple of days later I noticed that the new cases of paper we were getting at work had a Box Top on the wrapper of each ream.  The mortgage business uses just a LITTLE (that's definite sarcasm) bit of paper, so I started clipping the Box Tops off of each wrapper.  Every now and then, when I had collected a decent amount, I'd stick a stamp on an envelope and send it on out to Liz.

Come to think of it, I think I only sent envelopes out there twice-maybe three times.  And in the grand scheme, I know that what I sent really probably didn't amount to a whole lot.  (Ironically, today of all days, I was at Whitaker for lunch and the folks in the front office were sorting through MOUNDS of Box Tops.  They were everywhere.  Serious business.)

I was happy to collect these for the kids in Washington, thinking maybe a tiny little bit might help, but after I sent them I was always on to the next thing and honestly didn't give it much of a second thought.

Until today.

I got home from work and there was a manila envelope shoved in my mail slot that didn't make it all the way through and onto the floor with everything else.  I couldn't get my door open all of the way because the envelope was pinned between the door and the wall.  When I pulled it loose, I found this inside...

A Thank You, no, a Thank You POSTER (seriously it's huge, it will take up a wall in my office when I hang it tomorrow) from Mrs. Hernandez's 3rd grade class in Federal Way, Washington.  I sat in the floor and cried.  I read all of their little names and messages and smiled at their spelling mistakes and bubble letters.

I love kids.  I'd move Heaven and Earth to make every kid on this planet feel special if I could.  I wish I could send a million dollars to those kids in Washington to help their school.  But to think that maybe, just maybe, they felt a little special because someone so far away took two seconds to do something for them - enough to warrant a written thank you - knocked the wind out of me a little.  I don't know a single one of these kids.  It goes to show that the tiniest gestures can mean something.  Even ones that you honestly hardly remember doing.  And I don't at all say this to toot my own horn, but just to show that something that doesn't seem like a big deal to you might be a really big deal on the other side.  I just encourage you to do things that don't take much time and don't cost anything, but can still make a big impact.

I understand that if Mrs. Hernandez's class wins the Box Top contest at school, they get a pizza party.  And a class pizza party in third grade is just about like winning the Powerball would be for an adult.  So if you see me in the cereal aisle at Harris Teeter over the weekend with a pair of scissors demolishing all of the boxes of Cheerios I can find for that little stamp on the top, please just kindly look the other way. :)