She shamed my copper bottom pots, and now I see how everything can be so much better

It took Zelda at my church inadvertently shaming my copper bottom pots to help me realize that often we live lower than we should.

It started when we were cleaning up after a meal at our church. In the corner had sat a copper-bottom pot, unclaimed for months. Zelda picked it up and frowned. “Disgraceful! Look at the bottom of this. I’ve had my Revere Ware for 50 years and it still looks as good as the day I got it.”

I swallowed. It wasn’t my pot, but my bottom was even more tarnished. (My pot, that is.)

“That’s not how it’s supposed to look?” I meekly asked.

Zelda turned on me as if I’d just confessed to eating baby monkeys. “Good gravy, no! A little elbow grease, a little maintenance, and it should stay shiny for a century. This could be much better!”

I didn’t know that.

I went home and looked at my pots—three of them—that I’ve owned for 30 years. Not shiny.

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I didn’t realize this wasn’t normal.

Her words hung above me for days. This could be much better.

So one Saturday morning, I went to work on my bottoms. (The pots, that is.) After half an hour of scrubbing, Comet, vinegar, baking soda, and steel wool I was astonished to realize that, daggum, my pot could be much better.

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In my sink, with baking soda and vinegar and only about 10 minutes of work.

I did the next two pots, and a relatively short time I had wiped out decades of neglect.

In the month since I’ve cleaned my pots, I’ve been much more diligent about keeping them clean. It takes all of 30 seconds each time I wash them.

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So THAT color is copper! I’d forgotten.

That got me thinking of how many other tasks we let get away from us, then decide in quiet despair that there simply isn’t a better way, that life is always this tarnished, or dirty, or hopeless.

It’s not.

What if we spent an hour trying to make something better? Just one hour? Instead of going online to complain how someone shamed us (Zelda didn’t mean to, she’s a lovely lady whom I love dearly), what if we get to work fixing things instead?

Over the years I’ve discovered how much can be done in an hour–a filthy garage swept, a disorganized storage room straightened, an overgrown flowerbed weeded, a moldy shower scrubbed—and always after I think, Why didn’t I do this earlier? Why did I put this off for weeks, months, years? (It was a REALLY awful shower.)

I’ve been applying this idea to bigger things: the books I’ve put off writing, the education I neglected to finish, other issues that I don’t feel like confessing here . . . I spend a little time here and there, step away from the TV or the social media and instead do something productive, and every time—every stinking time!—I think, “Everything is so much better now when I do this! Why don’t I do this every day?”

Brigham Young once said that, “we live far beneath our privileges.” I think this partly means we often forget that we can improve many situations we think are unchangeable, that we frequently forget that we’re Children of God who are destined to far greater things than fiddling with mere trifles and wasting precious time.

The interesting thing is, as we fix something small–like a copper bottom pot–we see what great improvements to our mental and emotional health small measures can make, and we start to look for more ways to begin to live up to our privileges. It’s addicting, a natural high. (My kids can tell when I’m really depressed because I’ll get on my hands and knees and scrub a floor. An hour later, it sparkles and my brain is flooded with natural dopamine. Unfortunately for my floors, I’m not frequently that depressed.)

School’s canceled today because of snow. That means I have time to tackle problems that yesterday I thought were unfixable. At the end of the day–at the end of an hour!– everything will seem a little brighter.

Leave for a better life

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