ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

SIMPLE, SINGULAR DECENCY

It was an easy thing to do, really.

Oh, sure – there was a certain amount of risk involved.  And it did represent a significant deviation from standard operating procedure.  But when it came right down to it, it was a simple, singular act of human decency that made a sweet difference in the lives of one family in crisis.

You see, Sharon is engaged to be married.  Her sweetheart is a terrific young man, and her parents have every confidence the young couple will be happy together.  This is all good.  The crisis comes in the timing.  Sharon’s mother, Janice, is dying.  She has waged a valiant battle against cancer, but – as happens all too often, I’m afraid – cancer is going to win, probably in the next few days.

At first there was some discussion about hurrying up the wedding plans so that Janice could participate in the big event.  But Janice wouldn’t hear of it.

“This isn’t about me,” she said.  “This is about a new family.  And I want them to get started on the right foot.  I don’t want them rushing things on my account.  One way or another, I’ll be there.”

Strengthened by her mother’s faith and courage, Sharon plunged headlong into her wedding plans. Of course, her father, Dean, has helped where he could. But let’s face it: there’s a limit to what dads can do when it comes to preparing a daughter for marriage.  As the father of 2.25 brides (long story), it didn’t take long to figure out that there were times during the process when I just needed to shut up and sign the check.

Dean has figured that out, too.  Thankfully there have been good friends and family members who have been there for Sharon when she needed it.  But for the most part, she has tried to share as much as she could with her mother, and to seek her advice and input whenever possible.

Like her wedding dress, for example.  Sharon was anxious for her mom to help her choose her wedding dress, and to be able to see her wearing it.  She knew that would be a meaningful moment for both of them.  But when the time came to try on dresses, Janice wasn’t physically up to it.  So Sharon went alone.  She found several dresses that she really liked, but she just couldn’t make a decision.  She wanted to have her mother’s input, and she intuitively understood that her mother needed to be part of the wedding plans in any way possible.

Sharon explained the circumstances to the sales clerk who was helping her.  She asked the unthinkable: “Could I take a few dresses home to try on for my mother?”

 The clerk was well-versed in store policy that prohibited such a thing.  Dresses could be tried on in the store, but until they were actually purchased they could not leave the premises. Still, the clerk was moved by Sharon’s request.

“I’m a cancer survivor,” she said.  “I think I have an idea what you and your mom are feeling right now.”

Against company policy, the clerk allowed Sharon to take several dresses home to try on for her mom.  As you might expect, Janice was thrilled to be able to see her daughter dressed in a beautiful white gown, and to participate in that important decision for a wedding she knew she would never attend – at least, not physically. And when Sharon exchanges vows while wearing that dress later this year, she will remember shared smiles and tears when she modeled it for her mother – a once-in-a-lifetime memory made possible by a simple, singular act of human decency.

Standard operating procedure notwithstanding.

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— © Joseph Walker

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