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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Act of Kindness #11: Letting Go

I'm in a faded Indiana shirt.  The once vibrant red color is now muted.  Seams once tightly held together slowly separate and holes have formed.  Splashes of old paint now stain the sleeves, and the word "Indiana," once sharp and crisp, is slowing fading.

The shirt belonged to my dad, and with each wash, its condition slowly deteriorates, much like my memory of him.  I no longer recall the sound of his voice or how my name sounds as it escapes his lips.  I long to remember what his smile looked like.  Not a smile that is captured by a camera, but one in real time. One that dances across his face, that sparkles in his eye, and rests carefully and happily in its place.  I wish I knew what a hug felt like from him or what his footsteps sound like as he makes his way through the house.  However, twenty-four years later, these are all but a distant memory.  So I cope...the best I can.
I cope by holding on for too long.  In fact, more times than not, I don't let go.  I hold on to people, to feelings, to items.  Why?  I am afraid.

I am afraid that if I let these items go, the memories that accompany them will vanish too.  I fear that by relinquishing them, each good feeling associated with the item will no longer exist.  I worry, that like with my dad, I will no longer be able to recall.

And while I will proudly admit that I still have my DARE shirt from 6th grade along with my DARE medal, I know I need to change.  My first pair of ballet shoes may still be lingering in my home, but that does not mean that is where they need to remain.  And my gym shorts from high school, yep, they are still in the laundry rotation,but not for much longer.

It is time to let go.

And that is exactly what I am doing for my eleventh Act of Kindness. I am letting go of my fears, in hopes of helping someone else.

Not too long ago, an acquaintance of mine was trying to secure some baby items for a mom who needed some assistance.  Having only had Ceci a year ago, I had numerous items (some still with tags) that no longer fit her.  I contacted my acquaintance and told her that I would be happy to donate some items.  She offered to pay, but I refused.

Immediately, I went to Ceci's closet and began to pull out everything that no longer fit her.  I then placed them into piles.  Things to throw away and things to donate.  I carefully set the pieces that were to be donated into a plastic tub to drop off.

But I never did...
No, the tub sat in the corner of Ceci's room for a month...untouched.  I walked around it.  I set a stack of books on top of it.  It remained in my peripheal at all times, because when I looked directly at it, I felt guilt.  Guilt for not following through.  Guilt for not wanting to let go.  Guilt for putting my needs before the needs of someone else.

I desperately wanted to give these items to the mom to ensure her baby had some things she needed, but the part of me that feared letting go prevented me from fulfilling this wish.  By giving away these items, I felt that I was going to be giving away Ceci's first year of life.  A year that was filled with so much beauty, so many trials, and tremendous triumphs.  How could I just let go?  How could I possibly give that up?

And then, I came across the Indiana shirt.  My dad's shirt.  A shirt that has been without its original owner for twenty-four years.  A shirt that my mother held onto for comfort.  A shirt that was given to me by my mom for peace...

I knew what I had to do.  The next day, the tub of clothes were secured in my car and safely delivered.

 I looked at the box before I walked it in.  A sweet pink and brown polka dot outfit sat on top.  I smiled.  A student of mine bought that outfit for Ceci.  I remember putting her in it and secreting squealing with delight.  It was the first time in her month of life that she actually looked like me and not like her father.  Nestled next to the pink and brown ensemble was the outfit I brought her home from the hospital in.  I remember the joy inside me as I walked her into our home for the first time.  I relived how excited I was to celebrate this new life and experience the world with her.

Each piece of clothing brought a new and very happy memory, and I hope someone else can make even more amazing memories in them.

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