Lessons in Compassion from My Mother

May 23, 2022 8:56:32 AM | language Lessons in Compassion from My Mother

Compassion is often taught by example. This blog touches on our CEO's lessons from her mom that helped shaped her to help with her eventual career.

I wrote a blog about my mom for Mother’s Day and I would LOVE to tell you more about my mom…she was a fantastic woman.

I lost my mom in the summer of 2021, exactly 2 weeks after I lost my dad. I know that she just didn’t want to be here without him. She loved my dad so much. I miss her terribly. We talked almost every day. Even when I went on a vacation or was out of town for a conference, I would call her. We just enjoyed talking to each other.

My mom was an LPN and attended the St. Joseph Nursing School. When she graduated, she worked in the NICU, and when she retired, she was working in geriatrics. She worked the whole gamut of a person’s life so to speak. When I had my babies, she was full of great advice being that she worked in the NICU. She loved babies and was a willing babysitter. I was so fortunate she and my dad were my children’s babysitters while I worked.

Roller skating was a huge part of my life growing up. My mom was a competitive skater. She met my dad at a roller rink where he was a floor guard. She was there skating with her cousin, and he thought she was pretty so he kept buying my cousin pops so he could talk to my mom. My dad was such a good lip reader my mom didn’t realize my dad was deaf until they were on a date, and she was talking to him in the car, and he wasn’t responding. When he realized it, he told her he was deaf and he needed to look at her when she spoke to him. She made sure he was looking at her when she spoke to him, and the rest is history. They were married in 1968 in a winter wedding.

My sister and I followed along during the next three years. My family was very family-oriented. My mom was an only child and said she always wished she had siblings. Her parents said they had the perfect child, why have any more? They loved her intensely and loved my sister and me the same. I grew up in the house next door to her parents. (How’s that for family togetherness?). I loved it. I got to see my grandparents every day. My dad’s parents were only 10 minutes away, so we saw them often too.

My Great Grandparents were about 20 minutes away and another set was 10 minutes away. The closer set passed away when I was young so my memories of them are very few. Back to the sibling situation…my mom made her close friends her sisters. I had so many Aunts I didn’t know who was actually blood family and who wasn’t. I didn’t understand the difference until much later in life. In my family, blood doesn’t matter, it doesn’t make you family. If you come around for a day, you’re a friend. If you come around for a second day…you’re family. That’s how I was raised. Both of my parents were very social and very compassionate.

Before we moved next door to my grandparents, we lived two miles north in the same town. A woman moved into the house next door to us and she was 3 and a half feet tall, walked with crutches, used a wheelchair, and had Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease). My mom of course made friends with her immediately. She was friends with the woman across the street and the woman two doors down and the woman three doors down on the other side. Every woman in her age group! (She maintained all but one of those friendships until they or she passed.).

Chris, our neighbor, looked like a child and when she babysat my sister and me, I gave her a run for her money. I was pretty bratty because I didn’t want to be bossed around by someone my age. My mom sat me down, with Chris, and we talked about things. We talked about Chris’ disability and how it changed her body but not her mind or her abilities; how she deserved respect for her age and accomplishments. That was the beginning of my education in advocacy.

My mom believed in human service and giving back, as did my grandparents. It’s a part of who I am.

I feel that if you don’t give back to your community in some way you are doing a huge disservice to humankind. It can be through your church, a non-profit, an act of kindness…something. You must support your community in some way. If no one gives back, this world will not survive. We are all we have. We cannot be selfish.

My first volunteer activity was pushing wheelchairs for Chris’ disability advocacy group. In the 70’s electric wheelchairs weren’t as easy to obtain as they are now. (Friend’s children to push you places? Easy to find! Let’s go! *smile*). I learned invaluable lessons about human rights that were the foundation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Throughout my life and career, I have been a member of many organizations and groups that provide advocacy or assistance to Deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or disabled people. Some I have been invited to join and I feel honored to have been a part of those Boards or activities, others I have sought out. In all of these volunteer hours, I did it to honor my family and I did it because I was raised with a heart that said it was the right thing to do.

I would like to add that if you do volunteer with an organization, it’s important that you be an active volunteer. Make sure that you do something, don’t just keep your name on the roster. It can be providing extra money for a program or working an activity. Whatever you decide to do, keep your promise. My grandparents were huge proponents of anonymous acts of kindness and that is a favorite activity of mine. Try it once. It feels so rewarding.

My mom always had a smile on her face, in just about every picture we have of her. I believe I get my optimism from her. She was one of those moms who believed in children playing outside, having friends over, and was the mom that your friends called “mom”. Don’t get me wrong, there were rules that had to be followed…but it was a great childhood.

Thank you for wanting to hear more about my mom. I hope you had a great Mother’s Day if you’re a mom or if you nurture a human or animal. If you lost your mom like I did…I hope you survived it as best you could and your journey is moving forward like mine is.

Remember to volunteer. Remember to be an active volunteer. Everyone should be treated equal.

We may have different abilities, we might do a task a different way, but the task gets done. (Just a couple takeaways from mom.).

Perhaps do a random act of kindness this month in honor of your mom, or mine.

Dawn Flanigan

Written By: Dawn Flanigan