beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

“We can all do small things with great love.”

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.
The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.
But we can all do small things, with great love,
and together we can do something wonderful.
~Mother Theresa

I muddle along, and I muddle along, and I muddle along doing small things every day.

Sometimes I do small things with great love, but most of the time I do small things simply because the small things must be done.

I’ve begun to suspect that Muddling Along and Doing Small Things are my parenting styles. Also, perhaps, Making Things Up and Doing the Best I Can.

Don’t mock, please. It took me a long time to nail those down. Probably WAY longer than it took the people who were observing me to recognize my mad methods.

The strangest thing happened to me in my 30’s, though. Instead of feeling perplexed and inferior and apologetic that I tend to go heavy on the parenting love and light on the parenting logic, I relaxed. I let down. I super-glued feathers to my “supposed tos” and my “should haves” and my “better ifs,” and I set them aloft to fly away, curious if they’d come back to me. Sort of my own version of “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not come back, it was never meant to be.” And, you know, all of my supposed tos, should haves and better ifs are still gone, and I’m more free than I’ve ever been.

I parent, in large part, the way I live my life, which is by braille, feeling my way along, touching life’s contours, and trying to understand the shape and scope and rough edges and smooth bits.

But you should live by sight! the parenting books shout. LOOK at all that we’re telling you! And I say, what I’ve read with my eyes deceived me for a while into thinking that the books or the experts had more wisdom than my gut or my heart or my children or my God or my girlfriends, all of whom have led me down this parenting road more graciously and more gently and with greater Love than any of the books. So, even though I continue to catch breathtaking glimpses of this wild and lovely life with my eyes, I’ve spent the last several years also focused on listening and touching and tasting and breathing deep.

I’m bolder these days than I was in the beginning. And, by bold, I mean goofy and more willing to be myself out loud and in public.

I wrote a few weeks ago about navigating Individualized Education Programs (Happy I.E.P.!) with my son who has special needs. I told you about one weird and bold and ridiculous and goofy thing I do, bringing Happy I.E.P. cakes and circus animal cookies to celebrate the hard work that we parents and you teachers do together to make special needs dreams come true.

And then something stunning happened. Something that goes in the That’s Cool Beans category of life. Something that reminded me that I’m not the only person standing out here being goofy. Something that let me be a part of living out loud with an even bigger community of like-minded, ridiculous people.

Something that made me get teary. And then made me weep.

My cousin, Jen, a teacher in the Sequim school district in northern Washington state, started texting me photographs that looked like this:

And this:

And this:

And then she said that there were at least 25 more Happy I.E.P. cakes like this.

And I said, What is going on??

And Jen forwarded an email to me from Shelley, the Special Services Director at the Sequim high school, to explain.

From: Shelley
Sent: Friday, March 30, 2012
To: Jennifer

So, Carol’s culinary arts class made about 30 small Happy IEP cakes which I’ve had the pleasure of delivering to our special education teams yesterday and today.  Seriously, look what you did, Miss Jen!

You saw something amazing, sent it to me, I sent it to all Special Education team members, etc., who went crazy over this, then our own HS kids got to practice baking and the awesome team I work with gets a token of my appreciation…and a sugar high right before break!  Good stuff, in my opinion.

So THANK YOU for sending the blog and if you get a chance, thank your cousin for feeding the hearts and souls of our sped staff.

Special Services Director
Community School Principal

And then the bottom of Shelley’s email said this, which was a part of her signature, but which turned my tears into giant, blubbering mini-oceans.

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.
The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.
But we can all do small things, with great love,
and together we can do something wonderful.
~Mother Theresa

So we muddle along, and we muddle along, and we muddle along. And we make things up. And we do the best we can. And we live out loud. And we discard the things that don’t work. And we embrace the things that do.

And we do the small things. Sometimes simply because the small things must be done. And sometimes we remember to infuse them with great love.

And one person encourages another who encourages another who encourages another who turns around and smacks that first person in the heart with a giant, heaping spoonful of hope.

And together, we come to find out, we did something wonderful.

Thank you for being part of the small things. Thank you for being part of the together. And thank you for making something wonderful happen. THIS MEANS YOU, SEQUIM!

xoxo… and HAPPY I.E.P.,

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8 responses to ““We can all do small things with great love.””

  1. I love this. we are about to enter the world of IEPs, and I am kicking and screaming into it. making cookies might help. we will see if I have the motivation when the time comes

    rarely do, but five kids are a lot of kids. especially when the oldest is six and dragging me into the world of IEPs.

  2. Thanks, Beth. This is beautiful! Though I discovered when you tear up before you get to the end of the piece, it gets really hard to read. So anyway, with your blogpost in mind, I’ll try to live today, muddling along with joy, freedom, and as ridiculously as seems useful. Blessings!

  3. Beth, I’m reminded of this post today, in a somewhat different context. This morning I was overwhelmed to the point of being paralysed, not knowing where to begin. Then I sneaked away and prayed about it, and felt God telling me to focus on one thing at a time, that the big picture? He’s got it. So now, I will do many small things, all the way to bedtime, with great love. From wiping bottoms, to scraping dried food from dodgy places. With. Great. Love. Because in the end, that’s what Jesus would do, and That’s who I want my family to see. Not me, or how clean and tidy I can make things, but how much I love them, in everything I do.

  4. That is really beautiful. And I’m sorry that when I was reading the end I was reminded of that insurance commercial, where someone sees someone pick up a piece of litter, then that person is inspired to help an old person into a cab (or something like that), and someone saw that person do that, and then did something else cool, and so on. If you never saw that commercial, then nevermind, but it is sweet.
    You are awesome.

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