I believe we all need a little zapping at times; an attitude adjustment to put gratitude back in the spirit of our humanness. It’s not enough to stay cuddled in your comfort zone and complain about this and that. If you are reading this you obviously have a computer, a phone, or some sort of techie gadget that makes your life accessible to the world. In order to have that you must have money to have internet or phone service, right? And, yet with all of these comforts lies the amnesia of gratitude and what is important.
This morning I ventured down the mountain into Asheville to take blankets, pillows, socks and scarves to the homeless shelter. As I walked in the doors of this place I found destitution staring back at me from the image of a woman in a corner about my age. Her blank stare followed me around the place as I unloaded my belongings. At some point I couldn’t look any longer. It hurt. I could be that woman. In each one of us there could be that point of helplessness, faithless circumstances that push us to live on the edge of the world vigorously trying to hold to humanity.
In these moments I ache for true shelter of my spirit. Something breaks and expands and wanders off for just a little while. How does one give up living while still remaining here on earth? I have had many moments in this life where I just wanted to give up. I understand mental illness and disorders are a part of some homeless people’s journey. I get that. What I don’t get is how to find the will out of that helplessness to move on? These people who live on the streets are brave, courageous and resourceful. Some have had lives better than any of us. Some have lost their way through drugs and alcohol. Some have found that the responsibility of family was too much. And, some are waiting for life to end. In a way they are all living together for the same goal: food and warmth. That’s it!
When I walked away to the car I realized how much time I have wasted feeling sorry for the things I don’t have instead of loving the things I do have: love, comfort, shelter, warmth, food, bed, clothes, and faith. I realized I have been misusing my years searching for something, a sort of award for doing the right things. The trophy has been given to me a million times over with gifts of gratitude and love from others. The difference between that homeless woman and me is that I have had many pull me up when depressed or heartbroken. I’ve had another tell me to not give up. I’ve had others hug me without criticism or judgment in moments when I had nothing because I lost everything in the material world and whispered, “You can build again. You have the tenacity to do such a thing.” Who does this woman have? Where did her support group disappear to? I don’t know and might never know her story. Did she lose a child, her job or everything to take her to this place?
I have wasted my life trying to figure what to do with the journey forgetting to inhale the gratitude until a few years ago. How selfish and self-centered we can become until we get zapped again! I am clueless to what separates the many of us who have these beautiful lives from those whose lives have been tarnished with hardship and loss.
Ten years ago in the midst of rebuilding everything I had a Christmas that was bare under the tree for my six kids. But we had a home, a tiny rental house that really fit three and we were seven. That Christmas Eve I loaded them in my car (I had a car, imagine the gratitude in that alone) and drove us to the nearest women shelter. We fed these women and their children. We spent hours there. My kids whined and complained for a little while until they realized how much more they had. They didn’t need gifts. They knew they had much more than others. It was probably the best gift I could’ve given them. When we returned to the heated house they hugged me and thanked me for the lesson. They got zapped. Every so often we need that. Life will knock you down many times…but get up and keep going.
This Christmas I want something else. I want to remember the smell of that shelter, the look of its inhabitants, and the taste from the words of hope that I may give next time I visit. That’s what I want. I need to get zapped more often. I need to sit with that woman, hold her hand one day and tell her that she’s not alone in this world. Be grateful for reading this, for having a place to go to, a bed to keep you warm, socks on cold feet, food in your stomach, and the love of others that keeps you sheltered from the storm. Life is a mysterious expedition. You never know on which side of the tracks you will end up. Gratitude and faith keep us moving towards the light. Let that be the guidance you need to keep you afloat. Mucho love to all!
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
(image by google search)