DEAR ABBY: I have always believed my home and family are a reflection of me. My spotless home and my children defined me as a success. When an auto accident left me in traction and unable to leave my bed, I learned a new definition of success.
A special neighbor who had recently graduated from college was job-hunting without much luck. Every morning she would come over, get my kids ready for school and clean my house, while I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself.
The one thing I WAS able to do from my bed was talk to my children. I read to them every night at bedtime. For the first time, I listened to them without distraction. I heard them laugh. I held them when they cried. I didn't think about dirty dishes or laundry -- I just thought about THEM. In other words, I was a real mom for the first time in their lives.
When I was finally able to get out of bed and do things for myself, I wrote a long letter of gratitude to my neighbor and tucked it into her pocket as she left. Imagine my surprise when she showed up at my door bright and early the next morning. Over coffee, she tearfully told me how much helping me had meant to her. She had been considering suicide because she didn't feel she had a purpose in life. Helping me gave her a purpose and snapped her out of her depression.
Abby, I have learned many things from this experience. I have learned that smiles on my children's faces are far more important than shiny floors and sparkling windows. I have also learned that giving help is as important as receiving it. My house may not be as clean as it was before, but my children will never have to compete with housework again. -- THANKFUL IN TEXAS
DEAR THANKFUL: Thank you for sharing the insight you have gained. It seems the auto accident was a life-changing experience, not only for you, but also for those around you. I agree, your house may not be as tidy as it was before your accident, but your priorities are now in order, and that's far more important.