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April 7, 2014
Life on Planet Kathy
Serving with a Happy Heart
by Kathryn H. Kidd

When I arrived home from the hospital last year, Fluffy was automatically promoted to head chef of the Kidd household. This was fine with me. Fluffy always did enjoy cooking, and I was too weak to wield a spatula with any authority. Besides, my wheelchair was so low that I could not even see into the frying pan while it was in use on the cooktop.

Things are better now. I’m stronger. I can pick up a knife and wield a spoon. My wheelchair has been adjusted so that I can almost see what’s cooking on the cooktop if I sit up really straight, and most of the time I’m out of the wheelchair and sitting in real chairs anyway. But Fluffy continues his head chef role.

It makes sense. Fluffy still loves to cook. And he’s retired now, while I’m still employed on a part-time basis. He does have more time to cook. Plus, he can reach the refrigerator and the cabinets and the cooktop. I help him with some of the big cooking projects, but he does the day-to-day cooking chores.

With Fluffy as our head chef, I never know what to expect. Last Tuesday, for example, when he served our dinner plates, I asked him what we were eating in the semi-darkness. He replied, “Leftovers.”

“What leftovers?” I asked, as I picked up a slender triangle of finger food.

“That’s part of a quesadilla,” he said.

I dimly remembered the quesadilla. We made it a couple of weeks ago when we invited friends over, and we had one slice left. It was a quesadilla in name only because the filling was not Mexican. Fluffy had made Carolina-style pulled-pork barbecue with our last pork loin, and that was what was between the two tortillas, along with some cheese and jalapeños.

Next to the small sliver of quesadilla was a helping of red beans and rice. We made the New Orleans-style red beans with some leftover ham from this month’s empty-nester family home evening group. They were great red beans and rice, and I was sorry to see the end of them. We’ll have to make some more as soon as we get some more leftover ham.

The other third of the plate was filled with corned beef and cabbage, a leftover from St. Patrick’s Day. But that wasn’t all, because between our plates was a small bowl of smoked salmon and crackers, left over from when we had invited guests over on Saturday.

In one meal, you could say we sent our taste buds from Mexico to North Carolina to New Orleans to Ireland to Alaska. Eating with Fluffy is always an adventure.

Sometimes our friends do not like the way their husbands or wives do things around the house. They drop offhanded comments, usually “jokes” in front of their spouses, telling how their companions hang the toilet paper backwards or make the bed so it has lumps in it. Or sometimes they set the table so the knives and forks are reversed or fold the socks wrong or put the towels on the towel rack incorrectly.

Frankly, I think our friends are crazy.

Now that I have a househusband doing these things for me, I realize there are only two things that are important.

The first thing that is important is that the work is done at all. If you’re a wife whose husband helps around the house, count your blessings. There are a lot of husbands who do not help at all. Period. They do not change diapers. They do not make beds. They do not do laundry. They do not cook.

Yes, this is the 21st Century. Things are different now from the way they were when I was growing up and men were men and women were women. Even so, there are no guarantees that men will help do the so-called women’s work in your household.

Even if the wife is working full-time outside the home and coming home to a houseful of children, there are many, many husbands who still assume the wife will cook and clean and do the laundry as well as do the lion’s share of the child-raising.

Ladies, if your husband helps around the house, consider yourself blessed.

The second thing that is important is if he does those things with a happy heart. Fluffy may not sing as he works (well, sometimes he does), but he is so happy he almost pops. He just has the sunniest disposition I have ever seen. He’s happy when he makes the beds, and when he cooks dinner, and when he washes the dishes. He’s just plain happy.

Sometimes he pauses when he works and detours through my office and kisses me on the top of my head. Then he goes off to work again, hanging up the clothes or cleaning the kitchen or making the bed while I do my small part to pay the bills.

How fortunate I am!

No, I didn’t do anything to deserve this. Fluffy just made up his mind to be happy. It’s a choice all of us make. Whether you’re a husband or a wife, or whether you’re even married or single, happiness is a choice. People decide whether to be happy. Fluffy decided to be a happy worker.

I have always found it fascinating to interact with other people and observe the attitudes they bring to their jobs. We’ve all had those store clerks who won’t even acknowledge you. Mindlessly they ring up your purchases without saying a word, thinking only of the clock and when their shift will be over.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve all met those people who bring great enthusiasm to their work, even while doing jobs that many people would consider menial.

Years ago we met a little man who worked in the grocery store on Saturdays, playing Caribbean music and selling his crab cake sandwiches that he made on the spot. One of the other workers told us that his full-time job was being a stock broker. He owned his own business and he was rich, rich, rich. But he sold the sandwiches on Saturday because he really loved cooking and interacting with other people.

Oh, that everyone could bring such passion to their assignments!

For those of you who haven’t chosen your husbands (or wives) yet, take this message to heart. Look for people who serve with a happy heart. Are they happy when they go to work in the morning? Are they happy when they come home at night? Are they happy when they take out the garbage or scrub the toilet or feed the dog? Are they happy when they come in from shoveling snow or mowing the lawn for you?

Those nasty jobs will always be there to do, so why make them nastier than they need to be because of your attitude?

And it helps if you don’t have to have things done your way. If you stand over your husband and tell him that he’s putting the dishes in the dishwasher the “wrong” way, I can tell you from sad experience it will be a long time before he puts the dishes in the dishwasher again.

Finally, if your husband (or wife) isn’t serving with a happy heart, one way to make him or her happier in service is to show a little appreciation. If you can thank him for washing the dishes or cleaning off the counter or even putting his dirty socks in the hamper — and mean it when you say it — he will be more likely to do it again in the future. You will find that a little genuine appreciation goes a long way.

A good friend of ours likes to say that most people get married to have someone serve them, when in reality their goal should be to serve their spouse. Sadly, some never learn this truth, or learn it through hard experience. Those who truly find joy in life are those who serve others and do so with a cheerful heart.

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