Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We're All Building Cathedrals

I recently received a forward from a great friend of mine.  Usually (don't hate me friends) I simply delete forwards. But this one was about Mothers and since I am one (surprise) I took a keen interest in it and read it.  It unexpectedly brought a tear to my eye and got me thinking (imagine) about what I hoped to be the "cathedral" I am currently "building".  I hope my sons grow up to be fine men.  My wish for them is to have a good sense of who they are, to challenge themselves and to appreciate the loved ones that surround them by showing unconditional love, support, empathy, respect (not necessarily in that order) but most of all to continue to build upon this cathedral with their future families....


The Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the
way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and
ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm
on the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or
sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because
no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I
am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie
this? Can you open this??

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a
clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What
number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30,

Some days I'm a crystal ball; 'Where's my other sock?, Where's my
phone?, What's for dinner?'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the
eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they have
disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's
going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of
a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip,
and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was
sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.
It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling
pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped
package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great
cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me
until I read her inscription: 'With admiration for the greatness of
what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great
cathedrals - we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave
their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They
made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their
building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny
bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why
are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will
be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman
replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was
almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you. I see the
sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake
you've baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small
for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral,
but you can't see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As
one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see
finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The
writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever
be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to
sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend
he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4
in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a
turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That
would mean I'd built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to
come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend,
he'd say, 'You're gonna love it there...'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if
we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world
will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has
been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.


Ellen said...

Hey GG. Last year your Aunt Kelly sent me the video of the woman who wrote this as she performed it. Very, very touching. Sometimes the greatest gifts we give in life are only appreciated through love....and who can ask for anything more?

Perfect Dad said...

Wonderful January! One of the first posts I wrote was about how I imagined my grown-up son. It was a therapeutic exercise for me, set the stage for what I do day-to-day. I love your post: It's true, we are building cathedrals that we won't live to see completed and won't get the credit deserved.

PS: Your post reminds me of a another brief story, you probably know, about the cleaner who was "building a cathedral" ... I won't rewrite it but let me know if you don't know it and I'll send it.

January Dawn said...

Thank you Alex. I could read this over and over. It's my new mantra. ;)

I don't think I'm familiar with the story you mentioned...send it over!

Perfecting Parenthood said...

I don't remember which book. Going from memory, there is a huge 100 year project to build a cathedral. The Bishop comes to see what is going on and sees a stonecutter working. He asks the stonecutter what he's doing and the stonecutter explains that he is making a stone block, taking care to make the side straight and square so that it can fit in the pillar properly.

The bishop then sees a woodcarver working on something. When asked, the woodcarver said that he was making a straight beam to support an archway over a door.

Then the bishop sees an old lady with a broom sweeping. He asked what she was doing and she said that she was building a cathedral for the glory of God.

Might have been from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People but I've definitely heard it more than once.