Living a Legendary Life … November 1st, 2020

Just Downstairs

Benny loved his mom.  Of course, most kids do love their moms.  But his was stronger.  Benny believed he would love his mom if she weren’t his mom, if you know what I mean.

She always was happy.  She always seemed to have a story to go along with every problem and a joke to accompany every blessing.

They lived on the third floor in the Briargate Apartments. Benny used to complain about having to climb the stairs until his mother pointed out two very important points. “It’s special, Benny, to live on the third floor! First, we get all this exercise without having to pay for a gym, and then, when we finally get to the top of the stairs, we have the most beautiful view of everything in the whole town.”

Benny had to agree, although some nights, when he was particularly tired from school, the climb did seem arduous. But his Mom was right about the view. He always felt rewarded when he arrived at the top and saw vista before him.

Mom also made a point of making sure that Benny always was aware of the needs of others.

“Just downstairs,” she would say. “We need to think about the folks.  Maybe they don’t have as much as we do.  Maybe they are hurting.  Maybe if we make a few extra biscuits, we could take a couple to them after dinner.  Because just downstairs,” she would close, “there are always people in need.”

Benny wasn’t sure he agreed.  He knew that he and his mother were fairly poor and she had a difficult time making ends meet, although you could never tell by her disposition, nor did a word of complaint ever come off her lips.

“Just downstairs,” she would say.  “Those are the people in need.”

So mostly to make his mom happy, Benny visited a little girl in the apartment on the ground floor. (He figured she must be really downstairs.) Then he toted her books to school, and paid for her lunch twice a week–and made sure that when his mother made those “extra specials” that the little girl and her family got some. The little girl was very gracious and the family was grateful for the generosity.

Benny was about eleven years old when his mother became very sick.  Once again, you could hardly tell, except that she became smaller and frail and her skin turned very white.  But she still continued to tell Benny “just downstairs there were people in greater need.”

Benny had just turned twelve years old, in the springtime, when his mother passed away.  He didn’t have any other relatives, so the family of the little girl came to see him.

They asked him if he wanted to live with them now that his mother had passed on.

Benny said, “I don’t want to be any trouble.  I know that you—well—that you don’t have much money.”

The father, surprised, looked at Benny and then laughed.  “Didn’t you know?  We own this apartment building.  So I think we can afford one more mouth to feed.”

Benny was a bit bewildered but also delighted to be part of this new family.  He wondered if his mother had known that the father of this family “just downstairs” was the landlord.

He would never know. It didn’t matter. The words and beauty of her philosophy live on.  He never forgot what his mother said.  Because no matter how low you may get in your life, there is always someone “just downstairs” from where you are.

The only way to keep gratitude fully blooming in our hearts is by returning the little bit we can to those living beneath us.

Just downstairs—another step to living a legendary life.

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