Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

Yesterday, I had one of those epiphany moments that has adjusted my way of thinking in a big way. I saw a woman standing by the freeway holding up one of those cardboard signs asking for help while I was driving somewhere to buy some new shoes. While I didn't stop for her, I did take notice of her. If I had to guess, I'd guess that she was maybe around my age, somewhere in her early thirties. What really struck me was how she didn't look like the stereotypical homeless person. She looked somewhat pulled together and had her red hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail. I could be wrong about this, but it seemed like she was new to the homeless thing. I kept driving.

Lately I've been guilty of grumbling about certain things, certain inadequacies in the material sense. Ever since we've moved into this house that we now rent, I've grumbled about the kitchen with its big ugly, orange pine cabinets & appliances over 20 years old. I've grumbled about the bathroom, the fact that we have to share the bathroom with our kids [guffaw!], the lack of central air conditioning, etc. etc. Since putting an offer on this other house which is PERFECT but in a short sale, I've had more reasons to complain. While I feel positive that eventually we'll get the house, I've heard myself complain even more. Every time I walked into the ugly green bathroom or kitchen I'd remind myself that SOON we'd have a better bathroom and kitchen. Soon, I'd be able to evenly bake something in the oven without rotating it 10 times. Finally, a bigger bedroom & our own bathroom.... you get the idea. Boohoo, right?

So, back to the shoes... I was getting a little annoyed that I couldn't find was I was after, not that I really had a clue what that was. I finally accepted defeat and left. Yet, as I left and the whole time I was in the store, I couldn't shake that woman that I saw by the freeway. On my way home I drove by her again & decided to grab a wad of singles that I had in the car and give them to her. I handed over what I had & she thanked me as I drove away.

And as drove, I was hit with this overwhelming feeling of gratitude and empathy. I couldn't help but wonder, what on earth happened to that woman to put her in that position. What sad chain of circumstances and events led her to stand by the 90 freeway. I cried. I realized that we are all a few steps away from that freeway off ramp. This economy has left thousands of middle class families homeless. The worst of it, I think, are all of the homeless children & homeless retirees who were supposed to be sitting on a beach enjoying their golden years. And here I am, complaining about kitchen cabinets and not finding another pair of shoes to buy. I am a lucky girl. My husband has a job. We have a roof over our heads. I get to stay home and raise the kids. We have kitchen cabinets and stuff to put in them. We have a shower AND and bathtub. We even each have our own rooms in which to call our own. We have our health. We have our children. We are so ridiculously lucky.

How can we ever expect to be happy and fulfilled if we can't appreciate what we have now. While this all may sound cliche and I know we've all heard this before, I think we tend to forget how a simple change of attitude can change our well being. If we always focus on what we don't have, the new house, the fancy cell phone, the better car, we will never be happy even if we do get those things. I am so grateful that I saw that woman yesterday. She reminded me to not take for granted how fortunate I am to live the life that I've been blessed to live.

I am also grateful to be able to share some great blogs about being grateful.

"In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy."
-- Albert Clarke, photographer



jamie said...

Well said. :) xo

Krimey said...

thanks for that important reminder j. i love that quote at the end, being prone to general ingratitude myself.

life is good.

Kathy said...

thanks Jeannine your share made me cry. I'm glad you saw that homeless woman also. Whatever we focus on grows and grows. Whether it's lack or abundance - it's all in our minds.

Love you.