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Cheryl Hughes: The Middle

I am the middle sister of five girls.  Two older.  Two younger.  I have two younger brothers, as well, but they do not change the family dynamic for me.  I have always been the middle child, if only in my own mind.  I know who I am, and I know my role in the family.  I am my sisters’ keeper.

I’ve told you about some of the hard times in my childhood, times I shared with my sisters.  There is one important lesson I have learned from sharing hard times with others.  Each person reacts differently to the suffering.  I can tell you what I experienced and how it affected me.  I cannot, however, speak for them.  

Two of my sisters are estranged from other members of the family, but not from each other, not from me.  I don’t judge them.  I don’t try to make things right.  I just keep being their sister.  Sometimes, this means I function as a distribution center, by request.

“These are some clothes my kids outgrew.  Could you make sure her kids get them?”  (Of course, I will.)

“I won’t be able to drop off these Christmas presents for our nieces’ kids.  Would you be able to do that.”  (No problem.)

I make a phone call to my stepsister, my mom’s caretaker.  “I’m putting some homemade strawberry jelly in the mail for Mom.  It should be there on Friday,” I say.  While on the call, my sister and I work out a time in the next month for me to stay with our mom, so she can have a break.

Like all families, my sisters and I are very different people.  Of the five girls, I am the only one on social media.  Two don’t want to be bothered with it.  One is extremely private and has threatened her friends and family with banishment if even her name is mentioned on Facebook.  The fourth one is a lawyer, who has seen firsthand how easily fb can be used against you in a trial.  I keep up with my nieces and nephews on fb, otherwise, I would be unable to have a relationship with them. For me, it is important to have a relationship with them, because they are cut off from the rest of the extended family, and I want them to know they are loved and remembered.

My sisters have little quirks, individual to each of them.  One sister wears only dresses or skirts—never pants—even when she goes on adventures like white water rafting.  Another of my sisters is a germophobe—using a napkin to pick up the salt shaker.  Two of my sisters really hate to be bothered.  I have to use a code of rings to get one of them to answer the phone, and I have to make an appointment, preferably two weeks in advance, to see the other. (If they were writing about me, I wonder which idiosyncrasies of mine they would mention.)

My sisters are far more than their quirks, however.  They are compassionate and generous.  They are selfless and serving.  They go out of their way to help the unfortunate and downtrodden.  They are the Good Samaritan of the Bible, bandaging the wounds of the man who was beaten by thieves.  

My “code of rings” sister is part of a homeless ministry in Louisville.  She tells me of both the sorrows and miracles she has seen.  “The God of the Bible showed up,” she says, of one man’s answered prayer.  She gives rides to church, the grocery store and the doctor to those who don’t have another way.  She keeps her grandchildren when their mother works.  She cooks with them, teaches them how to sew and how to plant a garden.

My “never pants” sister teaches a special-needs Sunday school class…every Sunday.  She never misses.  She has helped members of our family when they have had financial needs.  She didn’t tell me.  They did.

My “germaphobe” sister goes out of her way to make those whom others might view as outcasts, feel welcome.  I’ve seen this firsthand, while visiting her church.  I’ve been at her house when she answers the phone and talks for thirty minutes to a person who has no other friends.  They cover the same material, at least three times during the conversation, but she never becomes impatient.

If you need emergency prayer, you need my “make an appointment” sister.  I’m convinced that she has a direct line to God.  She is one of the best listeners I have ever known.  That’s probably why her prayer is so effective.  She has a heart for the abused and downtrodden.  One of her favorite charities is “Friends of Sinners.”

I don’t resent my role as the middle.  It means that I get to interact with each of them, even the ones who are estranged from each other.  I believe in Heaven, and I look forward to the day when my sisters and I are on higher ground, level ground, where there is no middle. We will all be just children of God. 





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