By Dave Markwell 
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from my mom. My mom rarely calls me, so I was a bit concerned. Answering my phone, “Hi, Mom!!”, with some enthusiasm and optimism that bad news wasn’t about to be delivered, I settled into the nicest conversation I may have had this year.
My mom excitedly began with, “Well, I just had to tell somebody…”. She had to tell me that she had achieved 20k steps on her fitbit that day. I was pleased and shared her joy. And I was genuinely proud of her.
For several years, my mom has suffered from various chronic pains in her legs, hips, back, and feet. These issues have made her uncomfortable and unable to do some of the stuff she likes to do. As a result she has spent a lot of time just sitting.
In the timeless tale of “chicken and egg”, I began to wonder if the lack of movement was contributing to her not being able to move well. Though the pain was a real thing, I know that we become what we do repeatedly. And she is built to move, so I encouraged her to “just move”. I knew she wanted to.
In a prescient act of kid love, I bought my mom a fitbit device for Christmas, thinking that the tracking element might help her make a shift she’s wanted to make for a while. Apparently, it has!! She walked 10 miles INSIDE her house, going in and out of bedrooms, just walking!! She’s feeling better, physically, and spiritually, I think. And, I am very happy and proud to have contributed in my little, but not insignificant way to her having a better life. It feels good when we actually ARE the people we aspire to be and make the difference we hope to make.
The other night I drove to the market for dog food. Again. It seems like I am driving to the market for dog food every other day. It’s not my favorite thing to do. On this night, it felt especially violating. It was dark and windy and pouring down rain.
My over-worked wipers danced across my windshield as I entered the parking lot. As luck would have it – bad luck – I found a parking spot about as far as I could get from the store entrance. So, I sat in my warm, dry truck finishing up listening to a song I liked as I prepared myself to get wet…for my dogs.
As I planned the most efficient route to the front doors of the store, I saw an old guy pushing a cart. As mentioned, it was pouring down rain. This man was returning his cart. I was struck by this beautiful act of integrity. I always hate it when people leave their carts in the parking area, instead of returning them to where they belong. This feels like a small, selfish crime against humanity to me. And, I judge these “criminals” harshly.
This night, I was greatly heartened by the generous act of service by a wet, slow-walking old man, who did the right thing when it was a hard thing to do. He could have easily just left his cart by his car and even I wouldn’t have blamed him too much. But, he didn’t. He suffered a bit to do the world a favor. And I was grateful for him.
In assessing why these two episodes resonated with me, I suppose an element of aspiration is at the heart of their impact. As my life lengthens, I see moments of beauty and opportunity, and I also see many I have missed in the past. So, while I am happy I was the son I want to be for my mom by paying some attention to how I could help her, I know that I want/need to do more of that in many places in my life. I, also, understand that I want to be the old guy, shuffling through the monsoon to return his shopping cart and do the hard, but right things.
Now, aspiring to pay more attention and do the right things may seem like lackluster life goals, but I suspect if we all did them, the world would not suffer from a lack of luster. It would be beautiful…
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, whose first book is called “A Feel Good Life” (buy it on Amazon here ). He also runs the Waterland Arcade, located at 22306 Marine View Drive South. Dave extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, Dave desperately needs more friends – find him on Facebook here .