This week I received the alumni magazine from the college I attended, in which I can see all the important things my former classmates have achieved. There are bank CEOs, college presidents, scores of lawyers, surgeons, jet-setting executives. And me. I smile when I imagine what my paragraph would look like:
Since launching her career, Shannon has changed 29,283 diapers, many of those without turning the light on. She can recite in their entirety over 2 dozen children’s books, including (but not limited to), Goodnight Moon, Zoom City and Silly Sally (latest reports are that she make the accompanying animal voices for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) Her associates report that she can prepare a casserole, wipe a nose and double-check math homework simultaneously. She is unrivaled in the art of sewing on a Cub Scout patch.
Fifteen or twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been impressed by such a list. I was going to do Great Things, you see. I would write a book, win a Pulitzer Prize, live in a huge city, marry late, make a lot of money, change the world. I wanted to be a mother, always, but I thought I would somehow tuck it in between the spaces of all those Great Things. My definition of "Great" came from…well, I’m not sure–the world? my college professors? Glamour Magazine?
I don’t remember the day when my definition of "Great" began to change. It was a subtle shift, as my desire to be a mother grew and the desire for those other things began to pale in comparison. Falling in love with a wonderful man certainly sped things along. And before I knew it, I was the opposite of everything I once considered great–no salary, no career, no by-lines or title pages with my name on them. And somehow, that had become quite fine with me.
There were days, early in my motherhood journey, when I had flashes of wondering if I took the right path. I had many friends doing exciting, prestigious things, and I realized the likelihood that all the "dreams" I once held would not be realized. But those flashes came less often, and less often, until one day I was watching my oldest son read a book and I was nearly knocked over as the realization washed over me: he is my Great Thing. Loving him, training him, investing myself fully in him is the Greatest Thing I could’ve possibly done with my life.
Somewhere in our society, it’s become a little "pathetic" to achieve your fulfillment by serving others. How has this happened? Shouldn’t this be a character trait that is admirable? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "When you serve another’s dream, you will find your own fulfilled." Scripture says it even better: "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" Matthew 20:16.
So despite what the world, or college professors, or Glamour Magazine may have to say, I’ll plug along and be thankful that God nudged me down the path that He knew would fulfill me most. My 14-month-old daughter learned to give kisses this morning, and she gave her first one to me. I think that’s pretty Great.
This post was originally published on January 11, 2006