Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seeing Rightly: What I Learned from my Cleaning Lady Today

Might I ask you to pray for someone our family loves dearly?

Today was “Beata Day.” The day, every two weeks, that we all look forward to because we know that our dear Beata will come clean us up and put us all back together again.

Yes, I have a cleaning lady, but she’s much more than that to me. She’s a friend who has closely watched my kids grow up, patiently putting their shoes away when I’ve told them a hundred times that Beata’s coming and they need to put them away. She’s the one who knows where I keep the old rags—in a tattered cardboard box on a rickety gray shelf back in a corner of the basement. She’s the one who knows pretty much all about us and doesn’t judge. (I love her for that.)

Over the years she has shared bits and pieces of her life with me in her broken English. How she left her home country many years ago in order to come here, work hard, and make a better life for her family. How she waited four years for her husband to get a green card to come here too. How she left her teenage daughters (I can’t begin to imagine how painful that must have been!), now grown up and married and having babies of their own. How she has missed out on birthdays and weddings and births.

On Sunday, Beata’s parents flew to Chicago from their homeland to visit their daughter and son-in-law—what was supposed to be a fun two weeks. But while still in line for Passport Control in the airport (three hours, Beata said, with no water), her father collapsed and suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital where he died two days later.

And just two days after that, Beata came here—to work! (I sent her home.)

But we talked for a while before she left this morning, tears occasionally sliding down her cheeks, and you know what she told me? She told me about the plans her parents had for her and her husband. How her parents lived in a really big house, and how their dream was for Beata and her husband to return home in a few years to live with them. She told me that her parents had been married for 48 years and were already planning a trip for their 50th wedding anniversary. A trip that will never be taken. She told me that it had been seven years—seven years!—since she had seen her father.

I kept nodding my head, holding her hand, telling her how very sorry I was that this happened to her.

Then she told me something that I won’t soon forget: she said, “But I got to see my father.”

You see, rather than focus on all the bad that has happened to her in the past few days (oh, heck, the past few years), she chose to focus on the good: the fact that she got to SEE her father in his last few hours. She got to hold his hand (“He squeezed my hand so tight,” she told me) as his strength left him in the hospital. And although he couldn’t speak to her, his eyes fluttered open every now and then and she knew without a doubt that he saw her.

“I got to see my father.”

Tragedy has struck my friend—real tragedy. Not the kind of thing we think of as our everyday tragedy: our car broke down or my kid’s Homecoming dress didn’t get delivered in time or the grocery store was out of the specific kind of pasta I was looking for. We get frustrated, upset even, when the slightest little bit of our life doesn’t go as planned.

I think they call those First World Problems. They’re all around us.

And they drive us crazy and make us think we’re justified to get frustrated and upset. (We’re not, just in case you were wondering.) We act like our lives should be so easy—that we deserve easy. (We don’t, by the way.) And that these “problems” threaten our very sense of peace and security. (Ask a Christian living in the Middle East about peace and security.)

And when these little irritations happen, we complain. Loud and hard, boy do we complain. We let everyone around us know how bad we have it—so much worse than our neighbor down the street.

Can I tell you something? I get tired of the complaining. I just don’t want to hear about it until you have something worth complaining about.

Like how your father, whom you haven’t seen for seven years, traveled halfway around the world and collapsed before you even get to give him a hug.

That you could complain about.

But you see, the irony of this world seems to be, to me, that the people who deserve to complain never do.

They just look at the tiny bit of good in their bucketload of bad.

“I got to see my father.”


Linking to At the Picket Fence's Inspiration Friday, Serenity Now's Weekend Bloggy Reading, and Richella's Grace at Home party.



  1. Oh, my. What can I say? Two things only, I think.

    #1: Thank you for sharing this story; I'm so sorry for Beata's loss.

    #2. Now I must shut up, for too often the words I would speak would be complaining ones. I'll say it again: I will shut up.

    Lord, help us.

  2. Wow! Very well said Shelly! THANK YOU!!!

  3. That made me cry because my husband was an immigrant.
    We are blessed by those people who have the heart and soul and desire to be Americans. They leave much behind. And they bring so much good to America. God bless her.

  4. wow, she sounds amazing. What a wonderful person to be able to see the good even in a situation like that.


  5. You are right - about the complaining bit. I have always sensed that it is a part of our cultural conversation to have a line or two of complaint about almost anything - the weather especially! It almost sounds odd to have a conversation where there is no complaint included. It would be a good experiment to try it for just a week - every conversation to make sure there is not a word of complaint. Would it be possible, I wonder?

  6. Wow. I don't know what to say. Wow.

  7. So glad you have your sweet Beata and that she has you. It must have been such a comfort to have you hold her hand and listen.

    It is far too easy to complain.


  8. Shelly, this is a message
    we all need to read, and
    I mean DAILY....

    I wonder if B is Polish?

    I worked with a lot of
    Polish people in Chicago,
    and they told me the same
    thing.....that they were saving
    their American $$ to go
    back to Poland, where they
    would live like kings : )

    Good, good, people, living
    their stories and their dreams.
    What an honor to be even a
    little part of it, right?

    Hope your week is off to a
    great start. I will be thinking
    about your post as I go about
    my week....

    xo Suzanne