It wasn’t how he planned to spend his day off, on a summer afternoon –under the covers with a rolling stomach.
But there he was, so I kept going upstairs to check on him and kiss his forehead.
“What am I smelling?” he asked.
“Jell-O,” I said.
He turned five.
“What kind of Jell-O?” he asked.
“Oh, red. I like red,” he said.
So when the Jell-O stood firm in the goblet and his stomach stood firm enough to beg for something to eat, I brought him red Jell-O and a spoon.
“My mom used to make Jell-O in special Tupperware cups,” he said. And for a few minutes he forgot about feeling icky and traveled back to days when great happiness came jiggling in Tupperware, and his mom was taking care of him when his stomach was upset.
Handfuls of Gold
While my husband was upstairs sick, I had been reading what is now one of my favorite books, suggested to me by our very own Lisa Jacobson. It is West with the Night, by Beryl Markham –her story of growing up in Africa and flying a prop plane as her adult vocation. It stands, in my mind, next to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for brilliance in writing.
Beryl tells of flying into the tiny village of Nungwe, where she is asked to visit with a man who is near death, because he longs to hear news of the outside world. She describes entering his hut:
“It was a tiny hut with the usual single window blocked with corrugated iron, the usual thatched roof, old and dropping its leaves like a rotted tree, and the usual earthen floor paved with burnt matchsticks, paper, and shreds of tobacco.
There never seems to be any reason for filth, but there are occasions, like this one, where it would be hard to find a reason for cleanliness. ‘Poverty,’ an old proverb says, ‘is not a disgrace, but a great swinishness.’ Here was poverty –poverty of women to help, poverty of hope, and even of life.
For all I knew there might have been handfuls of gold buried in that hut, but if there were, it was the poorest comfort of all.”
As I was pouring red gelatin into boiling water, all I could think of was that phrase “a poverty of women to help.”
Here was this poor man, dying in a hut in Africa, and his greatest poverty was not having a woman around to make things clean and comfortable.
Can you imagine gold buried under our homes and yet our families still living in poverty because we are not bringing a richness of comfort to them?
Can you imagine a man with a stomach bug and no woman to make him Jell-O?
I thought about this again later on, as I was pulling my guy’s underwear out of the dryer, folding it, and making a neat stack of it.
“I am making my family rich right now,” I said to myself.
His face when he talked about his mom and those Tupperware cups filled with Jell-O –if you could have seen the warm look that came into my husband’s eyes and the deep peacefulness that shaped his expression. A look of being well cared for. Does his mom know that she gave him one of his sweetest memories, with nothing more than red gelatin?
Ladies, you make your family rich every time you clean or do any action that creates comfort for them.
Socks in a drawer.
Hot soup on a cold day.
Sparkly clean toilets.
You are one woman pushing back the poverty of filth and discomfort.
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I’ve read hundreds of books in my life, many of them very good. But few have made me laugh so much, given me so much hope, and made me so eager to share its pages with my friends. ~ Elisabeth
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