Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On my father and having enough.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. -Melody Beattie

My father said something really amazing to me when I was talking to him and Mom over Christmas about continuing my educational pursuits in a graduate degree program. We hadn’t even been talking about said future schooling for ten minutes when my dad offered to help me pay for it. My parents have already paid for an expensive undergraduate degree in Acting because they love me so. Since graduating, I’ve prided myself in being a financially independent artist (who is, I admit, very grateful to be on the family cell phone and health insurance plan). And so I responded that I did not expect any financial support, but hoped for their emotional and ideological support. Without the slightest hesitation, my dad replied plainly and confidently, “If I have the money, I’d rather spend it on that. I don’t need any more stuff.” I admire my parents for so many reasons, but something about this specific expression of generosity has stuck with me. I kept hearing that phrase in my head, “I don’t need any more...” 

I am blessed that I have parents who have enough to offer financial support to make my dreams into reality. When I was 19, I told them I wanted to be a professional actress and that I needed a BFA from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to do that. Six years later, I am working for a professional theater performing and teaching Shakespeare to 8th graders. I would not be here if they didn’t write a check to a school they had never seen in a state they had never visited for me to get a degree which made them nervous. 

I think my father’s wisdom is rooted in knowledge of himself, what he has and what he needs. How often do we say to someone, “Here, take this. I don’t need any more. I have enough."? Enough to be comfortable and content. Enough to share with others. Enough to give of ourselves. As my artistic collaborator Ron Clark pointed out, enough is not a word we hear a lot in this country these days. And indeed, many people don’t have enough. Enough to support their children through school. Enough to quit their second job. Enough to buy health insurance. Enough to take off work to see their kid in a play. Enough to take a vacation. Enough to retire. 

Yet, even if we don't have enough money, we usually have plenty of something else. We just might have enough time to call an ailing relative. Enough energy to volunteer on a Saturday. Enough clothes to donate to charity. Enough care to pick up the garbage in the alley. Enough books to pass along to a colleague. Enough passion to write something more than a Facebook status. Enough pasta to invite a friend over for dinner. Enough patience to play “Is this a hat?” for the thousandth time with the kid we nanny. Enough faith to say a prayer for peace. Enough perseverance to try again to reconcile with our estranged spouses. Enough love to do the dishes. Enough respect to put our phones down and listen to each other. Enough to share. Enough to give.

What do you have enough of? My 25th birthday is on Thursday. Instead of giving me anything (because I definitely have enough), give something you have enough of to someone who needs it. In the wake of bombings in Boston, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, it's just about all we can do. 

And after all, it’s hard to think about how little money you have when a toddler is excitedly putting random things on your head and you are repeatedly asking him if the object in question is indeed, a hat.

My dad and me when I was a toddler. I am a Super Baby and not wearing a hat.

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