I had my next book chapter ready for her, and it's kind of a funny one with some cute stories from her past. (You can read it below, if you'd like.)
She listened to every word and laughed at all the right places. It was precious.
Here's a still shot from a video Alia captured. You can see the tip of my computer on the left, my dad in the background working on photo albums, and then, of course, there's my mom. Look at that face:
Isn't the Lord so nice to give us happy moments like this?
Thank you, everyone, for your amazing support.
“Oh! That’s My LAY-deeeee!”
Everyone We Meet Deserves Our Utmost Love and Respect
When I was in high school, our booster club had a special fundraiser where they sold “Bruin Cards,” which enabled families to receive discounts at several local fast food restaurants.
My mother thought this was genius. She especially liked taking us to El Pollo Loco for their “buy one, get one free” burritos after we’d had a busy day at school.
This story, however, isn’t about the burritos. It’s about how my mom treated everyone with love and respect.
One evening at five, after my drama rehearsal had finished, my mom took me over to the El Pollo Loco drive-thru. When it was her turn to order, she leaned out the window toward the microphone on the order box and said in her cute way—kind of slow and kind of loud, so as not to be misunderstood, “Hello! I would like a Classic Chicken Burrito, buy one get one free with the Bruin Card.”
The woman who responded through the speaker sounded elated—beyond anything I had ever heard (or have yet to hear) in a drive-thru lane.
“Oh!” she cried out, like she was greeting a long-lost friend. “That’s my LAY-deeeee!”
I sat in the passenger seat, stunned.
What has my mom been doing over here that would elicit that kind of response? How did she get to the point that the cashier at El Pollo Loco wouldn’t only recognize her voice, but would be utterly excited to see her?
As our car crept through the line, I peppered my mom with questions. Her response was so casual. “This is my friend who is just so nice….”
I finally met the lady when we picked up our burritos. My mom introduced us. The woman was in her mid-twenties, physically as opposite in appearance from my mom as one can get. But their twin smiles and beautiful souls had somehow connected. “Your mom is so sweet,” she told me.
This experience at the drive-thru has stayed with me for more than 20 years, but it wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I saw one of these unique interactions in person.
Although my mom’s Alzheimer’s was starting to progress at that point, she still liked to answer the phone, and no one could stop her.
One afternoon while I was visiting, I heard this after the phone rang:
“Hello!” she greeted the caller happily.
Then after listening for a few moments, she replied, “Well, I’m not sure, but let me check.”
“Bob!” she called into the next room, “Do we need a new roof?”
My dad, trying to be patient, but getting a little agitated with my mother’s constant questions, replied, “No, Zoe. We do not need a new roof. We just had ours fixed a few years ago.”
I listened very carefully at that point—wondering how my mother would explain her answer to the salesman.
“I’m sorry,” she began with a truly apologetic tone. “But my husband is a party pooper.”
I stifled a laugh.
“But you have such a nice voice, and I wish you the very best with your sales.”
With that, they ended the call, and I sat still…stunned.
While I would have briskly replied, “I’m sorry, we don’t accept sales calls. Please take our number off your list,” my mother continually showed us through her actions that everyone we meet deserves our love and respect.
These two experiences weren’t the anomalies. They simply represent the framework from which my mother operated.
As a result, even though she got pulled over by police officers eight times throughout her life, she never once got a ticket.
Store clerks and postal carriers would go out of their way to make sure she was well taken care of, and practically every time she got on the phone to address an issue with an insurance or utility company, she got what she needed—simply because she was so nice to them.
I’ve spent years trying to replicate my mother’s art. I want to be just like her.
But each time I asked her to clarify her process, she seemed confused by my question. "Oh, April,” she would say, “Everybody wants to do a kindness! Each person in the world has good in them, and they’re just looking for a reason to share that goodness. All I do is give them the opportunity to do so! I explain what I need, I treat them with love, and I show them how their kindness will help me. They are excited for the chance to make that kind choice.”
As one of the main purposes of this book is to identify what, exactly, my mother did that bonded each of us so tightly to her, I can’t emphasize this point enough:
When you treat others with love, respect, and kindness—no matter who they are and regardless of whether or not they can do anything for you—your children will be watching closely. They will want to be like you, they will feel safe and protected around you, and if a time ever comes when you need them to care for you, they will feel honored to do so because it is their privilege to do a kindness.