Serve one another through love.

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“Will you let me be your servant; let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.” (From The Servant Song, by Richard Gillard)

This is the primary theme of Seven is a Perfect Number. After her recovery from a broken hip, Mrs. Henry refuses to try to get out of her wheelchair and walk. It is Beth Anne, a young girl with Down syndrome, who coaxes her out of the chair and helps her learn to walk with the aid of a walker. When Beth Anne breaks her leg, Mrs. Henry shows up with the same walker and insists that Beth Anne get out of her wheelchair and walk.

Sometimes in life, we are the servants and sometimes we are the served. While both roles can be challenging, from my own personal experience, receiving the service is harder. On the night before he died, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Peter’s first response to this is much like our response when someone wants to do something for us. “I can’t let you do that.” or “No thanks, I can do it myself.” It is much easier to be on the giving end of service than on the receiving end. To receive help from others is to put ourselves in a vulnerable position—one of dependence. And yet that is what Jesus expects us to do. He wants us to depend on him for everything. How hard is it for us to do that when we can’t bring ourselves to depend on others? And yet it is through others that we receive God’s grace.

God does not always call the best among us for the job at hand. Melissa struggles with this concept in my book. When Beth Anne is recognized as a hero for rescuing a little girl who fell in the pond, Melissa is upset that she wasn’t there. After all, Melissa is the best swimmer. She could have performed the rescue easily, and yet it is Beth Anne who gets the praise and reward. Later, when the Handy Helpers are cleaning Mrs. Henry’s house and Beth Anne just sits on the sofa looking at photo albums with Mrs. Henry, Melissa calls her lazy. Melissa’s grandmother uses the story of Martha and Mary from the Bible to help Melissa understand that there are many ways to serve. As her grandmother tells her, “Maybe Mrs. Henry needed someone to talk to more than she needed a clean house.”

In my personal life I have many people who are dependent on me. I am cast in the servant role daily. Yet it is difficult for me to ask for help or accept it when it is offered. Even small requests such as asking my Facebook friends for prayers are often not made by me because I’m too busy trying to hold it all together by myself. I should take a lesson from my own writing. I often wonder why I was called on to write these books when there are so many better writers who are already well known. And yet this is the task I was given. Much as I would be happy at times to relinquish it, I am driven to press on. And so I ask you who are reading this to help me share my message. If these books are intended to reach a child somewhere who desperately needs to hear of God’s infinite love, it is only through you that it will happen.

Jumping the Generation Gap

Scan_20140721I was fortunate as a child to be able to spend lots of time with my grandparents. My grandfather was in a wheelchair as far back as I remember, due to hardening of the arteries. I remember sitting on his lap and how he smelled of juicy fruit gum and Day’s Work tobacco. He was a proud World War I veteran who insisted we attend the Veteran’s Day parade every year. My grandmother was a sturdy, hardworking woman who kept her family going during the Great Depression. My grandfather worked for the WPA, a program that was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. My grandmother worked at any job she could find along with caring for her five children, washing their only clothes every night so they would be clean for the next day. Knowing who my grandparents were has helped me know who I am.

In our world today, there are still many strong extended families, but there are also families that are spread out across our country. In those families, children may only know their grandparents as some people who visit occasionally. Making that connection between the younger generation and the older generation was the main impetus behind the Handy Helper series.

In my books, the children and seniors come to respect each other and discover that they have a lot of common ground. For example when Doris hurts her back, Amber and her friends want to help. At first Doris turns them down. Amber asks another senior, Betty, why Doris won’t let them help her. Betty tells Amber, “You have to understand something about seniors. We need to be independent. Sometimes people treat us like we can’t do anything. Sometimes they make us feel like we are just in the way. Doing things for ourselves is really important.” Amber responds, “I do understand. It’s the same way for kids. Sometimes adults treat us like we’re helpless. We may make mistakes, but it’s because we’re still learning. We like to be independent too and show everyone what we can do.” Perhaps the two groups do share a common (for lack of a better word) enemy—the generation in between. When Amber wants help with her career report she doesn’t ask her family who tend to take over. Instead she asks Betty who shares a common interest—art.

Sharing between the two generations should be a two-way street. For example, when I finally broke down and got an iphone, I arranged for my granddaughters to spend the night. Together, they walked me through the ins and outs of my phone. It was a great experience and one we will always cherish. It was certainly more fun than a tutorial. My granddaughters showed me how to use Facetime and added emoticons so my texts wouldn’t be boring.

Many people are looking forward to retirement, but I would guess that few of them are wanting to grow old. Unfortunately, the two experiences are hardly ever mutually exclusive. Our society seems ready to put the older generation out to pasture, but there is still so much they can contribute. The seniors in my books are not sitting around complaining about aches and pains. They are out experiencing life to its fullest. They dress up in silly costumes and have all kinds of events, always including the Handy Helpers in whatever they have going on. While the Handy Helpers do help some seniors who are in need, more often they are helping the seniors who are helping the community.

It is my hope that in writing these books, I can inspire young people not only to help the seniors in their community, but to spend time with them. If they do, everyone benefits.

A little about me…

IMG_0443 (3)I was born in Phoenix, Arizona where I grew up during the fifties and sixties when it was still a small town. As a child, I spent most of my time outdoors, roaming the neighborhood, playing with any children who were available. I preferred to play in the dirt, catching lizards or little red racer snakes, climbing trees and riding my bike. But I could be prevailed upon to play dolls or dress-up. I never wore shoes in the summer and my feet must have been as tough as leather. I recall standing on the sidewalk that was literally hot enough to fry an egg on, and not feeling any pain.

Because my mother worked, I spent my summers with my grandparents who owned a laundry. It was not like the laundromats we have today. It was a huge building filled with agitator washing machines. After the clothes were washed, they had to be put through a wringer that was turned by hand. Then the wet clothes were hung outside on what seemed like miles and miles of clothes lines. Around the outside of the building was a gutter for the water to drain from the washers. My sister and I would check it daily for any lost change, buttons, or other prizes we might find.  My favorite place was the mangle house. It was a separate building with large pressing machines. People who could afford it sent their linens there to be pressed. I loved the smell of the crisp, freshly ironed sheets. That may explain why I love to iron.

My bohemian lifestyle came to an end when I was twelve years old and I foolishly suggested that I be permitted to care for my younger brother and sister while my mother worked instead of the caregiver my parents usually employed. I must have been hoping that some of the money budgeted for the caregiver would come my way, but that was only wishful thinking. As I proved to be a trustworthy teenager, my parents put more and more responsibilities on me. Eventually, I was doing most of the housework and cooking. By all rights, I should hate both of those jobs, but I don’t. During my years of teaching, I considered cooking to be my evening therapy.

My husband and I met as seniors in high school. I had plans to attend college and insisted that we wait to get married. It was during the Vietnam era, so Craig joined the Air Force just ahead of the draft. He was only in for a short time, before receiving a medical discharge due to a sinus condition he didn’t know he had until he went to Texas. (There used to be a saying, “Send your sinuses to Arizona.”) We were married in 1970.  We have raised two children, Michael and Kirstin.   Michael was an outdoor child like me, but even better at catching wildlife. Kirstin was born with Down syndrome, a chromosome defect that results in mental retardation. In spite of her challenges, Kirstin lives by herself in a mobile home she owns and works at Costco where she has been employed for fifteen years. Michael is the operations manager for the local cable company and very kindly provided us with three beautiful grandchildren.

Craig and I are both retired now. Craig operated a variety of businesses over the years, but his career came to an abrupt end in 2009 with the recession. After thirty years of teaching high school special education, I retired in May, 2013. Even with the responsibility of caring for my elderly mother, Craig and I enjoy our lives here in Chino Valley which is in the central highlands of Arizona.  We are fortunate to have several small lakes where we can take our kayak and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.

Written by Rosemary Heddens