As our final speech in my Comm class, we had to give a personal creed of sorts, in the style of the “This I Believe” essays. This was mine.
I have always been a picky eater, and my mother has always worried.
I have memories of the dinner table as a child, my parents coaxing me to eat the never-ending “last bite”, spurred forth by my mom’s used-car-salesman pitches of “healthy and strong”. As I grew older, her concern followed me in different ways.
“Don’t stay out too late tonight.”
“Get that extra sleep, dear. The paper can wait.”
“Even if you get a C, I am still proud of you.”
At times it felt like nagging, and at times I neglected to accept it – but the underlying current in all her words was this,
“Be gentle with yourself; I love you.”
When August of 2014 came, I could not have been more excited to get out of the house. I had my sights set on Belmont for years and felt I was finally going to be in the place where I belonged.
But a mother’s love knows no boundaries and that first semester was peppered with calls and texts and care packages full of vitamins.
“Omega 3 helps with brain function!”
“Are you drinking enough water, Meleyae?”
“Look for Jesus as you walk to class today.”
Fairly soon, I found myself in the rhythm of doing these things instinctively: of hearing my mother’s voice in my head, remembering my fragility, and caring for myself proactively – if anything, because she loved me.
And I had a wonderful, healthy, happy first semester.
As second semester rolled around, the friends I had made started to grow more dear and dear in my heart. And before I knew it, my mother’s words began slipping out of my mouth.
“Don’t stay out in the library too late. (A full nights rest could help you better on that test.)”
“Advil would help that headache, but water will help even more!”
I found myself carrying extra KIND bars to the library with me, just in case somebody needed something to munch on. I found myself being bolder to pray with friends – right then and there – in times of stress. I found myself looking into the eyes of someone I had not known 6 months before and saying, with all sincerity, “Be gentle with yourself; I love you.”
But when I think about hesitancies and dry spells of this sophomore year, I am reminded that you cannot pour out of a cup that is empty. And I am convinced of this truth: that taking care of yourself is the second most beautiful act in the world. You and I are fragile creatures desperately parched of grace and often the ice cold water in the deserts of our discontentment comes from our own cup.
The importance of this lies in it’s service to the first most beautiful act in the world: taking care of others. Being apart from my mother in Acworth, GA, I saw the extents of her love in a crystalline way – and it has compelled me to tears more times than I can count.
And I say this not only with my mother in mind, but now with these college friends who I hadn’t even known existed a year before. Who have loved me so deeply and have given me the gift of learning how to love and care for them in return.
As I look around at the friends I find myself among, faces glowing, hearts tender and open to the love they are daily giving and receiving, I hear my mothers words once again.
“Be gentle with yourself, I love you.”