As my wife and I learned how to live together during our first year of marriage we’d find ourselves fighting about the smallest things. I couldn’t understand why things that seemed trivial to me were a big deal for her. The start was a challenge, but marriage got a lot easier when I tried to see things from her perspective. In fact, I think we’re all made better by taking the time to see things from a different point of view and not just when it comes to marriage.
Between work and family I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I recently finished a book called The Little Way of Ruthie Leming that offered me a new way of looking at my life. The book’s author, Rod Dreher, reflects on his experience of watching his younger sister, Ruthie, fight a losing battle with cancer. Ruthie’s cancer draws Rod—a successful, well-traveled journalist—back into his home town, a small town in Louisiana. Upon returning to small town life Rod is forced to ask questions about his current path. Ruthie’s happiness—despite her suffering and simple way of life—forces Rod to confront questions about the meaning and value of his own life. Throughout the book I was reminded of two truths about life that puts everything else into the correct perspective.
Little things matter.
I’m often tempted to think that it’s the things I do outside of my home that will define me. I spend a lot of time worrying about a potential promotion, or the next project I can tackle, or ways to help make the world a better place. I’m not saying that these things aren’t important, but what are dramatically more important are the things that happen in the home. How I treat my wife, how I raise my kids. Similarly, what type of neighbor am I? Am I friendly and do I lend a helping hand? Or just another guy who lives on the block? These are the most intimate and human parts of my life, and throughout the story of Ruthie’s struggle with cancer, you get to see what a significant impact her simplicity had. Whether it’s Ruthie’s town throwing a fundraising concert for her treatment, or family friends helping with yard work and just checking in, St. Francisville rallied around Ruthie and you can see how powerful small communities like it are.
Life is messy.
At times I can be a perfectionist and because of this I tend to ignore any pain and brokenness in my family or my own life, imagining that if I don’t acknowledge the brokenness, then it won’t affect me. The problem is that wounds only heal when they’re treated. Ruthie’s brother, Rod, is startlingly honest with the brokenness in his own family, and isn’t shy about acknowledging his own fault. But through the messiness, what stands out is how much Rod’s family loves each other. And that’s the beauty of family, no family is perfect but in it there should be security and unconditional love that you can’t find anywhere else.
Reading The Little Way of Ruthie Leming offered me the opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. This book reminded me that love can be found in even the messiest families, and it also taught me that it is through our families that we can make the biggest difference for ourselves, those who we share our lives with, and even for strangers we may never meet.