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By Helen Luhrs
When my mom died this winter, I realized the generation of my parents was gone. What I learned from them about faith and life was now mine to practice and pass on. To help me remember what I learned and treasure what nuggets of truth I want to share, these Summer Sundays are dedicated to Henry and Edith Blankespoor, my parents.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 3:4
At the visitation before my mom’s funeral, a retired teacher at the local Christian school told me something about my mom that I never knew. Long before room-mothers and Parent Support Committees, my mom decided teachers needed a little extra support. “When we came to school in the morning,” the teacher told me, “there was a tea ring on each teacher’s desk. No note, no one in sight, but we all knew where it came from.”
Mom was famous for these tea rings—gooey layers of flaky cinnamon and sugary bread with a glaze of powdered sugar. Chopped pecans and maraschino cherries garnished the top. Each one was a work of art. They were so famous in Inwood, Iowa that a single tea ring once brought well over a $100 at a fundraising auction. Getting one of Edith’s tea rings was truly a treat.
She must have spent a whole day baking tea rings to have four ready the next morning. She went early and left one on each teacher’s desk. No waiting for exclamations or effusive thanks. She didn’t even tell us she had done it. She gave simply for the joy of giving and because she saw a need. In fact, at least half of the people at Mom’s visitation had had one of her tea rings. A sick family member, a death in the family, a new baby, or just plain cheer motivated that baking feat.
I wonder how often I look for ways to show kindness without expecting anything in return. I sign up quickly on Take-a-Meal online accounts because there is some social accountability. I see others sign volunteer lists at church and follow suit. But how often do I add the extra pecans and cherries? How often do I give without telling someone else so that everyone knows I am “good and generous”? What gift will people chat about at my visitation?
God, help me leave gifts in secret. Help me to serve without expecting anything in return. Open my eyes to the needs of others and bless my hands to work in ways that bring joy and comfort. Amen
An Iowa woman to the core, Helen Luhrs is a high school teacher who lives out in the country near Knoxville, Iowa. Helen and Lee have four married daughters, five grandchildren, a graceful prairie, and a square foot garden.