Things That Should Be Better

My parents did a good job teaching me a lot of important life lessons as I was growing up. Things like: "life isn't fair"; "do unto others..."; "do or do not, there is no try" and "it sucks to be you!" (except we don't say sucks). I think one of the most important things that they taught me was in reference to being a good babysitter when I went out into the wild of Rich Realtors houses as a young teenager - "always leave things better than you found them." I took that to heart and I washed dishes, vacuumed floors and ate all of the bad junk food that would have otherwise poisoned my innocent young charges. My employers always seemed impressed, perhaps mostly with the amount of Oreos that disappeared, but also the clean house.

It's a lesson that I have tried to pass on to my kids, with varying amounts of success, partially due to less effective delivery methods and things like spared rods (you biblical literalists know exactly what I am talking about). But it's also a rule that I still try to apply to my life, whether I am having dinner at a friend's house or running a medical unit in a fire camp in the boonies. And it's become more than not leaving dirty dishes or popcorn on the carpet. It's become the question I ask myself in any conversation with people - how can I leave this heart better than I found it? Obviously I am not always successful, but... goals, right?

Several years ago my sister was involved in a horrific accident and lost her unborn child. Madelyn Jo never opened her eyes to the bright, sunlit world, but in her brief visit here she brought my family together and healed some scars that had driven us apart years before. For me in particular, a Stranger in a Strange Land, I had moved away to reset a life that had zigzagged wildly out of control. When we came flying back to Spokane after the accident, all of the Bad Things and Hard Feelings seemed so silly and insignificant when I saw my broken sister in that hospital bed, holding a tiny angel. I am an EMT, you guys. I have seen hurt people, dead people, stuff - but I couldn't even stay upright. My world went black.

Sometimes the worst things are what we need to remind us of the best things. Things like family. Things like brothers who drop everything to take care of nephews for weeks. Things like distant relatives throwing down for a zillion pizzas to feed All the People. Things like forgiveness and redefined priorities. Things like friends who become fixed forever as family members. Madelyn Jo gave us a chance to see all of that and remember. She left things better than she found them.

This life is only as good as the people that we fill it with. I have been so lucky in mine. It is my hope every day to leave the people and places that I touch better than I found them. It's when I realize that I am failing at this that I know I need to step back and reevaluate my priorities and identify which rut my wheels are spinning into an oblivion. I am forever grateful for the people who have left me better than they found me, even unintentionally. In fact, more often than not, the ones who have inflicted the most damage have done the most to make me stronger, more resilient and more useful to the world around me, and I love them for that.


Maddie Bird.

"Salvation Song"
the Avett Brothers

If you take my heart
Don't leave the smallest part
I've no need to live if you're to come up gone
An as my life turns to a song
And if and when I treat you wrong
No I never want to hurt our family

And I would give up everything
No this is not just about me
And I don't know a plainer way to say it Babe
And they may pay us off in fame
Though that is not why we came
And I know well and good that won't heal our hearts

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

Now if I'm walkin' through the rain
And I hear you call my name
I will break into a run without a pause
And if your love laughs at your dreams
Well it's not as bad as it seems
Either way one of them has got to go
And if you take of my soul
You can still leave it whole
With the pieces of you own you leave behind

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

And I would give up everything
And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way







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