I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Biographical The Secret Helper and a Lesson in quiet Generosity

This happened when our two children were still very young. They grew up knowing Mom might be laid up with another surgery, often a joint replacement surgery, that entailed months of recuperation.

Before my 3rd knee revision, Martha’s* name and face scarcely registered. I expected the operation to be quick and fairly straightforward. After all, I’d been through this type of surgery several times to repair damage done to my joints due to Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Instead, I ended up with a splint holding my leg straight for two months. Weak and easily tired, I realized getting back to normal was going to take a while.

After I returned home from the hospital, Martha brought over a delicious chicken casserole. “Cooking is not my thing,” she apologized. “I’d much rather clean and do housework. If you ever need help, give me a call.”

Many times in the next weeks I thought of picking up the phone, but pride held me back. I hated asking for help. Sunday after Sunday Martha asked my husband how I was doing, adding, “Have your wife give me a call.”

One day the house, my continued weakness, and my frustration became too much even for my stubborn pride. I couldn’t keep up with the many household tasks required with two young children in the house. Hesitantly, I called Martha.

The very next morning she brought over her heavy duty vacuum and a will to work. Within a short time, she turned my disaster area into a livable house again. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I thanked her–profusely.

It didn’t end there. A few days later, she returned carrying two baskets. Giving them to my then two and four year old she said, “These are for your toys.” She added a toy to each as an incentive. Then she cleaned my house again. When dinner hour approached, Martha endeared herself to my children (and to their harried mother) by ordering a fast food meal for us.

Martha’s generosity and willingness to serve put me to shame. When I tried to pay her, she shook her head. “I’m not interested in money,” she said. “Just promise one thing.”

“Sure. What?”

“Don’t tell anyone what I’ve done.” She hesitated. “This is one of those things my left hand is doing that I don’t want my right hand to know about.” Smiling, she added, “Pass it on…just pass it on.”

While I could not thank Martha publicly for all she’d done to encourage me during a lonely, frustrating time, I could do what she asked. And I do. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to be a “Martha” to someone else who needs a secret or not-so-secret helper.

(c) 2001, 2020 By Carolyn R. Scheidies

*The name Martha is a pseudonym

A version of this article first appeared in the now defunct magazine THE WITNESS, Summer 1987.

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