Make it Count

Welcome! The Atlantic community is adorned with color these days. All five of my lilac bushes are in full bloom. My quince bush is laden, too. Its coral blossoms attract Baltimore Orioles, which are a rare treat to see.

My lilacs and quince grow on their own. Well, not entirely. God sends rain and sunshine. I do absolutely nothing but smell their intoxicating blossoms. But I’m not the norm in the Atlantic community. Many of my neighbors are dedicated to gardening and farming. They grow beautiful flowers and impressive vegetable gardens.

I have no talent or passion for gardening. I’m proud of myself if I plant two grape tomato plants each spring. I’m even prouder if any tomatoes grow. Gardening just isn’t my thing.

I see people mowing their lawns twice a week. Good grief. Not me. If I lived in a neighborhood with a housing authority they’d be knocking on my door telling me to mow my grass more often. I usually get to it once every week or ten days. That’s good enough.

This makes me think about priorities. Yard work and gardening don’t matter to me. Spending time with God and my family, writing, playing my trumpet, and walking, on the other hand – these do matter to me.

Using my talents to serve God is what makes me keep going.

I’ve played in my church’s praise ensemble for almost two years now. It’s been a joy to return to music. It feels so good to be part of a group again, especially one that offers music as a gift to God rather than a demonstration of talent.

I practiced my trumpet for hours in high school when I was in marching, concert, and jazz bands. I’d practice until my lips got so tired I couldn’t play anymore. Trumpeters look funny after practicing hard – we get red semicircles on our top lips from buzzing against the mouthpiece. We also get thirsty and need ChapStick. But it’s a small price to pay if you love playing. And I do.

Every task has drawbacks. Gardeners’ backs ache after pulling weeds. Sometimes my lungs burn when I’m walking fast, but I have to keep going. It’s a priority. My daily walks help me manage depression. And, of course, I write. Sometimes I write until my eyes are bleary and I can’t think anymore.

My parents have taught me lessons in dedication over the past couple weeks. Dad recently took his recertification tests for a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) certificate. He had to take 27 tests to renew it. It took him three weeks to study and take all the tests. But he did it. Now he’s recertified.

My mom is about a month away from retirement. She’s been teaching since 1973. She taught four years, then took a couple years off when my siblings and I were little. Teaching jobs were hard to come by in the ‘80s around here, so she substitute taught for a few years before landing a permanent job at Wilmington Area School District in 1988. She’s taught learning support, gifted, fourth grade, and fifth grade science, social studies, and reading during her tenure there.

Her colleagues recently honored her, along with the other retirees, at a dinner. The teacher who paid Mom tribute said he could summarize her teaching career in a few words: passion, dedication, and Texas sheet cake. That got a big laugh. Mom is an incredible baker. Her Texas sheet cake is the absolute best in the world. Okay, so I’m biased.

Mom’s dedication and passion for teaching knows no bounds. She routinely stays up until 1 a.m. grading papers. Over the years she has helped diagnose many children with learning disabilities, both in and outside school. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Mom and Dad model a good work ethic. My gardening neighbors do, too. I hope I’m teaching my children that hard work and dedication count.

One day people will remember you for the things you dedicated your time to. What matters most to you, and why? How you answer this question determines the impact you make on those around you. I hope you make your time on earth count.

Have a wonderful week. Blessings!