Saturday, April 20, 2013

What I Learned From My Brother --- Guest Author --- Stephanie McCaffery Queiros

"If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." ~1 John 4:20

Last night I made a horrible cooking mistake and as I rushed to fix it a snarky thought shot through my brain: I pulled a Jeff.

See, when I was in elementary school my older brother made a horrible cooking mistake that resulted in a costly fire to our home. Though I would never wish him painful memories or embarrassment, I have to tell you that bit of information because it lead me to my very next thought.  And that thought saved me a lot of agony.
My mistake: I decided to heat some oil in a skillet to stir-fry chicken.  While the flame was up much too high, I turned my back to cut the meat.  As I sliced and chopped I started to think about my mom coming for a visit and what we would do for my birthday and how much I miss seeing her everyday and the adventures we would have.  My mind wandered away.  The next thing I saw was black smoke and I new I made a damaging error with the heat and the oil. ("I pulled a Jeff") Moving quickly I jerked the skillet off the stove intending to put it in the sink.  Well, hot oil moves quickly and about a half cup came sloshing out onto my foot.

And there, in the middle of that chaos (a burning stove, a hot pan in one hand, an oil slick on the floor, and a foot that felt like excruciating fire) I remembered my brother again.

When we were much much younger, Jeff and I went to play outside (remember playing outside just for fun?) and Jeff didn't wear his shoes.  I only wore some play heels which made a nice click-clack sound down the sidewalk.  That day, as we ran through the grass, Jeff met a pygmy rattle snake with his big toe.  It doesn't take much venom to start shutting down the system.  And though the details of that event make for a dramatic story, one truth stood out in my mind last night: as little Jeff reached the hospital with a blue-swollen toe and the panic ensued to extract the poison before permanent damage could be done, the story goes that he realized his own panic would only push the venom faster and faster through his veins.  By staying calm, slowing his heart rate, the damage could be controlled.

Last night, as soon as "Jeff" and "foot" registered in my mind, I instantly recalled that lesson.  Stay calm, don't let the pain control you into going out of control.

So I as I nursed my scalding, crusting foot with aloe and cold compresses later that night, I began to think.  I know it's embarrassing to make mistakes and fall into scrapes, but it's down right dangerous not to learn from them.

So let's call this note: What I learned (the hard way) from my brother.

1. Don't be so blinded by hunger that you are careless with the execution of your job.  Food, money, your pay-off will come.  But it will be a lot sweeter when you've done the job right.

2. Don't turn your back on danger.  The worst thing about making dumb choices is thinking they don't matter.  Recognition of, and respect for, your surroundings will teach you to act and react appropriately.  Take initiative if you see something wrong.  Never be careless or reckless and don't put up with situations that are.

3. When calamity comes, calm yourself to control the damage.  All sorts of craziness exists to get you to react in the wrong way.  Some dangers even bank on you losing your cool.  Don't.  Keep your wits about you and peace and wisdom will surely come.

4. Call for help.  Wisdom is understanding which situations you are equipped to handle and which ones you need expert advice.  Don't let pride keep you from seeking and accepting the wisdom of others, even if it means revealing mistakes.

5. Learn from the pain of mistakes.  Sometimes a failure can be a glaring scarlet letter, but those who love wisdom know how to embrace the wounds and transform them into a badge of honor.  If my mistake leaves a scar, it's a reminder of an important lesson I should never forget.  It's okay to have scars.

The final bit of wisdom I know I have received from my big brother is this: when you fall, make a mistake, mess up, get hurt, get knocked down don't forget to GET BACK UP!  Don't let circumstances keep you from moving forward or trying again.  And certainly don't let doubt creep in and convince you that you can't do it.

Thank you, Jeff.  I was blessed the minute I was born under your watch.  I love you.

One of us is cool, confident, and ready to take on the world. And one of us has a calculator.