A few years ago my niece made a card that said "Happy Ants Day" and gave it to me for Mother's Day. I belly laughed over the misspelling of "Aunt's" and hugged her tiny little shoulders. This is the child who - now at the mature age of ten - has told me on multiple occasions that she hopes I never have children. She doesn't want to share me with anyone, and she's dead serious about it. While her emotions are selfish at best, they come from a sweet place of admiration and love. I can totally identify with them, because I feel exactly the same way about my one of my favorite aunts.
I submit to you that there is no better woman, no godlier saint than my Great Aunt Bett. She's been serving and loving our family for seventy years. She's now responsible for over 30 nieces and nephews, down to the great-great genealogical assignation. She has the biggest, fullest heart of anyone I know. If generosity had a picture, it would be hers.
Let me just explain:
Not a single parent has had to buy diapers in my family. Not a one. Bett takes care of it. If you've ever purchased diapers before then you know the list could just end there. We're done. She's won the title of "most adored woman in the whole world". But for the sake of accuracy, I'll continue. Dozens of zoo passes, ballet classes, baseball uniforms, and YMCA memberships have Bett's signature on the dotted line. There have been more gallons of milk and bags of chips and cases of Coca-Cola purchased than I can conceive. Please don't mention anything you need to pick up from the store in front of her: she'll beat you to it and won't let you pay the tab. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen $20 bills fly back and forth across the table as she and my grandmother try to convince a bemused waiter just exactly who is picking up the check. Bett has successfully subsidized three generations of the Williams family.
But it doesn't end with family. She taught Sunday School for decades and basically fed the entire church snacks between Sunday School and Big Church. She provided evening meals for youth group too. Folks, I should've purchased stock in Pepperidge Farms Gold Fish. And you better believe that everyone in the neighborhood swung by her house on Halloween to get the best candy. She supports mission work and non profits. She contributes to fundraisers and March of Dimes and The Girl Scouts, and will just throw money out the window to any pack of tweens holding a youth group car wash poster.
Photo cred: @OfAKind
The craziest thing about her is this: she isn't wealthy. At all. She doesn't throw money out of a half opened Cadillac window, or peel dollar bills out of a Chanel wallet. This isn't "fun money" that she's giving away. She has a modest home and a used car and is still going to work at the age of 71. She lives her life the exact opposite of most of us: she lives on as little as possible and then gives the rest away. I would argue that more than half of her income goes to others. She's built her life around it. She has savings accounts for other people. She has special credit cards just in case someone has a crisis and needs help. She believes in loving your neighbor as yourself, and is THE CLEAREST picture of that worked out in a human life.
Of course none of this begins to touch on how she loves us. Her financial generosity is motivated by love for others, but really that's just the tip of the iceberg. She encourages. She compliments. She laughs and smiles and gives the best hugs. She is always full of joy and praise. If you want to feel good about yourself, go spend a day with Aunt B. She is an example of what it means to love well, to mother well, even if you yourself are not a mom. Being a positive influence on a child doesn't begin with motherhood. It begins with proximity.
I am now responsible for eleven children. They are proximate to me, therefore they are my responsibility. I pray for them. I play with them. I can't yet spend a lot of money on them, but I do have the currency of time. So I spend a LOT of time with them. They are my joy and my delight, and I know I feel so comfortable spreading my arms open wide for them because I have the privilege of witnessing a living, breathing example of what it means to love your neighbor. Aunt B, you are my hero. I will never live up to your level of selflessness or generosity, but I'll try my very best. Thank you for being proximate to me. Happy Ants Day.