Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Resourcefulness at Home


What would you do if you had to leave your comfortable home and were suddenly faced with a rough shod cabin or a tent to live in? How would you conduct your day? What if you had to live in a bleak place with dark gloomy skies all the time? Or, maybe you are transferred to a remote island somewhere. Do you think you have the resourcefulness to keep from falling into despair and disappointment?

Will it bring out goodness and cheefulness in you, or will it reduce you to something less than noble?

I just want to take a moment and write something about my mother. She is in a hospital in Melbourne, Australia undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery. She is 79 years old. In her youth she faced many challenges. She had hard times on her family's homestead, but she had a love for life that could not be diminished by all the problems. Her family had a dirt floor but they swept it til it shone.

In the hospital she was talking to a Maori nurse who told her what it was like for her growing up in New Zealand. She said that they , too, had dirt floors but they kept them clean and shiny and the home was neat and clean. My mother went from a hard life in Canada to an even more challenging one in the wilderness of Alaska. It was kind of like jumping from the cooler into the freezer.

Her honeymoon was spent on a gravel highway between Whitehorse City and Anchorage, Alaska. There were no hotels for them so they camped out each night. I asked her, before her surgery, "Mama, weren't you scared? Didn't you miss your home? Weren't you poor and lonely?" She said, "Yes, but I didn't care. I was in love!"

Throughout my childhood she was extremely resourceful. Some things she already knew but some things she would accidently discover and then laugh joyfully about it. For example, she had no beauty products, so she put a bit of berry juice on her cheeks and lips. She laughed when she saw herself and then washed it off. She wound rags around her hair to curl it. She found all kinds of things that would normally be cast off or throw away and made a lot of things herself. A lot of women at the time were like that. I don't know if many women today would know how to be resourceful.

There wasn't much available in the way of communication but she could always find something to write on and she wrote lots of letters telling about her life there. She liked to make lists; all kinds of lists. She still makes lists. Laying in the hospital bed can be quite boring, so she made a list of all the things she would miss if she died. One of them, she told me: "I would miss 'Just Breathing the Air,'" which is the name of her book. She intended it to be a kind of play on words, a pun.

In any situation, there are resources. Resources are things than can be used at little or no cost. There are natural resources in any country, such as trees or shells or minerals, etc. Most homemakers have natural resources they don't even know about. In day to day living, there is the sky and the sea. There has to be something there that can be used as a resource for talents or for creating. Inside herself, a woman has something. Basically, she has things like her language and her imagination. She has her hands. She has her eyes which observe things and she has her experiences. She has her voice. These are all things that can be used for good.
Beautiful things can be made from the resources around us, when we are in a place away from home.

I knew a woman who always made something for her home when her husband was away on a trip. Today her life is full and her children half-grown, and she would not have time to sew a pillow or a tablecloth, but she has a fine collection from the days when she was alone at home.
My mother and others like her at the time, used every scrap of cardboard available. As soon as a box, any box, from the kitchen or any other place, was emptied, it was taken apart and cut down and made into a greeting card or doll house furniture for children. Sometimes one side of the cardboard would be white and it was a perfect artist canvas for one of us to make a painting. Egg cartons were particularly valued and hoarded, to make silver bells to hang all over the place. Wrapped in shiny silver foil, they caught the light and added sparkle in the dim winters where we were indoors for so long. Egg cartons were also used for doll house furniture, making settees and tables and bedroom suites. Fabric from old clothes were recycled into hooked rugs or braided rugs, or quilts. We made paper dolls with huge wardrobes, from old catalogs.
We learned a routine and knew what to expect in a day. There would be breakfast, lunch, dinner, and activities inbetween. Evenings were glorious just watching the light grow dim, at least to a child. Part of the resourcefulness of those people was not worrying about entertaining the children, but allowing them to enjoy ordinary life and find entertainment from it.
The resource within, such as the imagination, can overcome anything. With that imagination, fascinating stories can be made up, written, and illustrated. They can be told aloud. Her experiences can be used to help others in their personal struggles. For example, if there is something she regrets, she can tell others how it harmed her and point them in a different direction in life. There are resources available that we don't even realize.
In my adult life I found myself in many different countries and situations. There was one particular out-of-the-way place that I found trying, but after a bout of discouragement I wanted no more of that kind of mood and began to change things. We created an artists studio and learned about art, even going for walks and painting outside. We held musical concerts where we sang. We had speech nights and special dinners to celebrate even the tiniest thing, such as the 50th day of high temperatures and the first day of rain. We had fashion shows and book reviews and held tea parties for friends. We learned to write in journals and studied a character quality each day. These were hard times but with resourcefulness they created better memories and lessons than the easy times.

Her eyes can view the place she is in and she can find creating ways with language to describe it. Her hands can make the home a comfortable and tidy place to live. Resourcefulness seems to come out best when there are no convenient things to rely upon. It can either be a hardship, leaving bitter memories, or it can be a journey where God's hand is seen in the process.


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