Making a difference begins with me

My wise old grandmother

Perhaps the most important aspect of life that I learned from my wise old grandmother was to care—about people, fauna, flora, and the environment.

Whenever I complained about not having new clothes for the start of the new school year, she would say, “There’s always someone worse off than you.”

When the three-legged alley cat made a pass through our back yard, my wise old grandmother was following it with a bowl of water and a bowl of food, trying to get it to stop for a meal, perhaps make our house its home.

She’s the one who taught me that a weed is something that is growing where you don’t want it to grow, so instead of pulling it and throwing it away, transplant it to where you do want it to grow. If wildlife of any kind gets inside, move it back outside. That included spiders, snakes, rodents, birds….

She was conserving before it was fashionable to conserve. She used to follow us around the house turning off the lights that we had left on (“If it’s on, it’s using electricity!”), knocking on the bathroom door to tell us that we were taking too long in the shower and using too much water. She put a gallon jug of water in the toilet tank so that it would use less water.

I learned from her to keep a five-gallon bucket by the bathtub to save the cold water while waiting for the hot water to arrive. That bucket of water would then be used to water flowers, bushes, and trees around the yard.

11141 Valley Lights Drive, Mount Helix, La Mesa CAWhich reminds me of the time when Jim and I were selling our Mount Helix home (picture►) back in 2001. I had buckets in all the bathrooms to save cold water while waiting on the hot water. I then watered two acres of plants and filled all of our fountains and ponds.

When we went to sell, one of the Realtors walked around the house to see what we were asking her to sell. Once she finished her walk-through, she told us that in order to get the most money for the house we should fix all the roof leaks before putting the house on the market. I asked her, “What roof leaks?” She said, “Well, I see all the buckets in the bathrooms which usually mean roof leaks.” I had to explain to her what water conservation was….

Alpha Phi OmegaThroughout my life I have tried to care for others less fortunate than me, to care for unwanted or injured animals, to care for the flora that use carbon dioxide which humans breathe out for photosynthesis, creating oxygen which humans breathe in, to care for the planet. My journey began with my wise old grandmother, continued in high school with Circle K, and then with Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity at Texas A&M University.

Fire on the freewayAfter college, my involvement included organizations that cared for people (soup kitchens, blood drives, Special Olympics, women & children abuse shelters), fauna (animal shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries), flora (botanical and community gardens), and the environment (planting trees and native vegetation after natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires).

My wise old grandmother also taught me that making a difference begins with me. If you would like to do something to make a difference, here is a list of 100 things you can do to make a difference.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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28 thoughts on “Making a difference begins with me

  1. dogleadermysteries

    Thanks Russell for the personal story of your grandmother (who sounds a lot like mine) and her thrifty nature and nurture. I also learned to sit up straight, pay attention to roses and vegetables, never waste water or food. I feel so lucky to have had my loving and smart grandmother, Alice. Her husband teased her that she was “Irish and Dutch and didn’t amount to much.” But she amounted to a great first teacher for my mother, her brother and sisters and all her grandchildren.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      My wise old grandmother used to put food on my plate, even if I didn’t like it, and then she required me to “eat everything on your plate.” Some things I just didn’t like, though, like eggplant and okra gumbo. I did like vegetables, including Brussels sprouts. But when she made me sit there until I ate all that eggplant, ack. I ate it all and promptly threw up all over the dining room table and floor. That was the last time she made me eat anything that I didn’t like.

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      1. Connie Flanagan

        Once when visiting a friend in Slovenia, her mother served tripe. To be polite, I choked down the entire serving, despite being a vegetarian. I almost burst into tears when she served me a second portion!

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      1. Connie Flanagan

        Neither of my mother’s parents could read. Both had emigrated to Canada when young, living in a Ukrainian farming area where they met and married. They never learned to speak English, either, since everyone around them spoke Ukrainian. Somehow, though, my grandmother always knew what was going on in the world, and my grandfather loved to have my mother read to him.

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          1. Connie Flanagan

            I don’t know about the mothering instinct, but studies have found that women recover better from strokes because functions like speech use many parts of the brain rather than being localised like it is in most male brains.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Any 55-year-old lady who is willing to adopt one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents at the age of 11 is probably a pretty amazing person, especially since she straightened his butt out and made him a productive citizen by the time he reached the age of 18.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Jim and I weren’t laughing at the time, but we have a good laugh now every time we bring up the name of that Realtor. By the way, we did wind up using her to sell our home, but we also did wind up regretting using her but for different reasons than thinking we had roof leaks.

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  2. philipfontana

    Russel, I couldn’t have picked a better post to stop by to say hello. While your Grandmother is known to me from posts I saw way back when, your story here & lesson from Grandmother re water is a grand lesson. You have transposed what she taught you into conservation of all forms of life itself. May all things be well with you. Phil

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