“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
I have been struggling lately. I have found myself at a crossroads, at the intersection of self-worth and self-doubt. I am trying to find a job, something with meaning, something that will fill my heart and my soul for the next ten years or so.
My last project ended in December and unfortunately it ended with a disappointment after four years. Lack of funding typically morphs into lack of interest which is where I ended up. If I could have pulled this project off it would have been a very good thing for my community. But as the years passed the “if” became a “maybe” and the “maybe” became “we will see” which turned into “this just isn’t the right time”.
I had put all my Easter eggs in this one basket for the last four years anticipating that this project would carry me to retirement or at least within spitting distance of it. I guessed wrong. So I have been struggling a bit, trying to figure out what my next move is at the ripe old age of 57 and it is weighing on me and my wallet.
A couple of Sundays ago the Social Worker at my church announced during the service that one of our older members needed some help at his apartment and asked for volunteers. I emailed her when I got home asking what he needed and what I could do to help. What I learned was he was living in a subside unit downtown and the landlord was threatening to have him removed in a week if he didn’t clean out his apartment.
Honestly I didn’t know what to expect when I showed-up Tuesday afternoon but rather than provide you with details let me just say no one should be living in the conditions he was living in. Unfortunately due to his age and mental issues his environment was of his own creation.
A small crew from church removed well over 40 trash bags of stuff from this very tiny apartment. I had assumed these things had been accumulated over many years but learned later not as many as I would have thought. This gentleman wasn’t a hoarder he just needed help and was afraid to ask for it. He was grateful to have a roof over his head. Grateful for hot water, air conditioning and heat. He was so grateful for these basic human needs that he didn’t want to burden anyone. He didn’t want to ask for help to take his trash to the dumpster or help taking his clothes to the laundry downstairs, so he didn’t and it accumulated into 40 trash bags of stuff.
The pastor of the church emailed me later thanking me for the help I had provided. She reminded me that this gentleman would have been put out on the street in a community that easily has a waiting list of several hundreds for an apartment like his. She continued, if we hadn’t helped him she wasn’t sure where he would have gone.
I drove back to my home, a house that four or five of his little apartments could fit in. A home that my wife and I keep clean and neat not just because we have the desire too but because we have the ability and resources to do as well. I answered an excited phone call from my youngest who is getting her PhD. She was just chosen to present a paper with a very long and obscure title at a conference. My wife and I were going to my oldest daughter and son in-laws city for Easter service at their church. I texted her with a lunch idea, maybe a picnic in the park after church. She shot the suggestion down because of all the trash, paper and plastic, Bojangles’ uses. Yes, gratefully, I made these two wonderful human beings.
It occurred to me, despite my job struggles, that I have much to be grateful for. I don’t always see it but that is my fault. Sunday I watched my daughter and her husband at their church. She was in-charge of coffee and greeting, he cleaned-up after the service. I watched them interact with people, smiling, laughing, being thankful for the community of faith they had found. They are doing good things at this church not only for the community but for themselves. They are growing as human beings and I needed to remind myself that I had a hand in her existence.
“I am grateful for what I am and have.” I can’t do anything about our dumb-ass President or the lemmings that want to follow him off the cliff. I can be grateful for what I am, have and what I can do to change and help the people in my small piece of the world. I can control the compassion, kindness, love and empathy I can offer to others. I can be an example to my family about what it means to share the blessings we have all been graciously and gratefully granted. We all can.
I responded to the pastors email thanking me with this, “I got more than I gave”. Despite all the hate, doubt and anger many of us are experiencing I hope we will all gratefully get more from giving. This world needs it now more than ever.