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What is valued? What is valuable?

I agreed to present at Mother's Group on Tuesday. When I read the selected base text, to me it said, "God is in the details." To me, that meant, no matter how big or small, everything you do can be a contribution.

I've thought a lot about this lately, on many fronts. After Hurricane Katrina and the floods devastated so much of my Gulf Coast neighbors' communities, I didn't even hesitate before springing into action. I knew it could have been me, and I knew what needed to be done. Evacuees immediately began arriving in my town and we quickly mobilized our community to provide food, housing, and resources. People are the most valuable valuable resource. Therefore, I felt the need to do more than simply donate (as valuable as that is), and was fortunate to be in a position where I could also give of myself as well. I solicited, sorted and distributed donations, and volunteered for the Red Cross at an area shelter.

I got to know the people behind the stories, and their situations became as personal to me as my own. When they cried, I choked back tears. When an aquaintance's mother---who due to illness was stuck in New Orleans---passed away because help came too late, I cried too. I felt a powerful responsibility to help them get everything they needed.

When FEMA and the Red Cross decided to close area shelters and consolidate evacuees (as if they were simply a commodity, simply cattle) and I saw these people feel angry, scared, devastated, powerless, hopeless, frustrated, sad, and worse, watched the traumatized children cry, I felt grief and anger. I did whatever I could to help as many people as I could and then had to sit back and watch the rest get shuttled away.

When the dust settled, I felt a tremendous emptiness and frustration. Now what could I do?

Because I am a mother with young children, I have limitations; my children need me too. Working locally was one thing; however, there was no way I could drive an hour to the big shelter and work a six hour shift.

What could I do?

I could continue to solicit, sort and distribute donations. I dug right down to the bottom of my heart and asked, "Is it enough?"

And once again, I was faced with the million dollar question I have faced many times since becoming a mother, "How do I balance outside needs with what my family needs of me?"

If I didn't contribute in a large way---such as going to the big shelter---was my contribution valuable? Was I valuable? What is valued?

I see mothers asking this question time and again, with regard to their daily lives, work (or not), volunteering (or not), and everything they do (or don't do).

I began my presentation by commenting that although I'm sure, as mothers, superachiever women have stayed up all night to clean up and care for a vomiting child, that isn't what makes the news. Becoming a space shuttle commander, or a Supreme Court Justice, is what makes the news. But does that make the un-newsworthy happenings not valuable?

I don't think so.

Every floor we sweep, box of clothes we give away to a friend with a child smaller than ours, shoulder we offer to a friend, child we hug, joke we laugh is all valuable.

As with the donations, every little thing adds up and does minister to---care for---those around us.

It doesn't matter whether you are a mother who works or who stays home. It doesn't matter whether today you were nominated for an award or got a piece of paper from your daughter who wrote her name for the first time.

What matters is that every day, in some way, big or small, we contribute. And that is valuable.

By Julie Pippert
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