It is in Giving We Receive
During this season of thankfulness, I have been reflecting and ruminating about gratitude in respect to my life. Simply, gratitude brings to mind all those humble and inconspicuous little things that mean so much more than we realize. It is all about the things we take for granted when in fact they are such miracles.
There is a sense of magic in the morning sunrise peeking above a jagged tree-filled horizon,
the billowy clouds in the heavens above,
the grainy bits of sand between my toes as I walk through wallowing waves rushing to shore,
the tenderness of the first snowfall,
a child’s laughter and eyes of wonder,
the unconditional love and support from family and friends and those who read This Old Heart Blog and of course,
I am always truly grateful for such things as deviously eating ice cream with rebellious fortitude (and a LARGE spoon) out of the carton with a good friend!
I have true gratitude for all such endeavors! There is enchantment even in the ordinary. I would encourage you to embrace the ordinary, and to remember that there is so much beauty in the simplest of things. For, being grateful fills one with positives, making problems seem so minuscule.
It is the season of slowing down, taking time to reflect and maybe even fantasize a bit of what could have been and what really “is.” I have been doing some “woolgathering” – indulging in idle day-dreaming about who I was and who I have become. It makes me realize that there is so much to be grateful for. With the approaching holidays upon us, it is timely that I ponder on giving thanks, of gratitude, of those things that are so much bigger than me.
I want to go deeper into the mystery of gratitude. I want to find that sheer joy that emits thankfulness from the inner crevices of my heart. It took me a few days to reach the answer to the question of what I am most grateful for this year but I do believe I have reached the most proper conclusion.
You will wonder why my choice brings gratitude. You will wonder if you may find gratitude of the largest proportions from this also.
I believe the reason it brings such happiness and creates multitudes of gratitude in my heart is because it validates who I am and who I want to be. It gives me purpose. It is the last little “piece of me” I have left.
I like to think I do it well. I get such positive feedback from it. I can see the gladness in the recipient’s face. I know I am doing what is right and what is good. It brings an optimism and hope about life and positivity in spite of life’s events. There is some physical difficulty in doing it and there are times I wish I could just stay in bed and not have to pursue it.
Oprah Winfrey spoke most movingly about validation in the 2013 commencement speech to Harvard:
“I have to say that the single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking every single day to people, was that there is a common denominator in our human experience. Most of us, I tell you we don’t want to be divided. What we want, the common denominator that I found in every single interview, is we want to be validated. We want to be understood. I have done over 35,000 interviews in my career and as soon as that camera shuts off everyone always turns to me and inevitably in their own way asks this question “Was that okay?” I heard it from President Bush, I heard it from President Obama. I’ve heard it from heroes and from housewives. I’ve heard it from victims and perpetrators of crimes. I even heard it from Beyonce and all of her Beyonceness. She finishes performing, hands me the microphone and says, “Was that okay?” Friends and family, yours, enemies, strangers in every argument in every encounter, every exchange I will tell you, they all want to know one thing: was that okay? Did you hear me? Do you see me? Did what I say mean anything to you?”
You may ask who it is that validates me so compellingly. The answer is simply – the less fortunate, the homeless of this world. They give me so much more than I give them. They make me rich in life. Sometimes the stories that come out of relationships (people meeting people) can make you wonder if there isn’t some grand design being laid out by someone greater than us. No matter what your beliefs are, we all know that when two people come together, extraordinary things can happen. Sometimes we can come to full realization of this and other times it quietly passes us by.
I volunteer at a homeless shelter on Tuesday mornings. I work a mere 3 hours per week. I am up at 4 AM which is doable on warm summer days when there is daylight, but these cold dark winter days make it a real trial to get up and going! Once I am there, the time goes quickly as Bonnie and I come up with a hearty and warm breakfast for some 40-plus individuals.
I know that breakfast is the most important meal to jump-start the mind and body. Now that the air is cold and frigid, we want those we serve to stay warm from the inside out, as they head out to the world shortly after this meal. We have to work with what we have and some days that takes a lot of creativity. I give that credit to Bonnie who tosses together ground meats, beans, onions – whatever we find and tells the guests of the day that she made “cowboy beans” – the food stuffs that are left at the end of the trail! And they love it!
Another day we got some leftover baked potatoes donated from the University and chopped them up – peel and all – added onion, chopped ham and some salt and pepper. We had a can of “cheese sauce” to pour over the top. My specialty is scrambled eggs with cheese…Yup! It is a specialty! They all tell me I make the best scrambled eggs. The best part is they seem sincere and so grateful!
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard these homeless people simply state “Thank you for the great breakfast!” We have been told that the word is out that Tuesday morns bring the best breakfasts at Sojourner House! I am not sure why it feels so meaningful. I am not sure if it is the look in their eyes or the earnestness in their voice. I cannot understand why I am grateful for the time-consuming task of cutting small, unwanted and deteriorating apples and transforming them into apple cinnamon topping. They add so much “special” to an oatmeal bar for breakfast or as topping for pancakes or French toast.
One twenty-something young man walked over to our kitchen area and pronounced that “this was the best breakfast I have ever eaten!” When we declared that we would not share that tidbit with his mother, his face saddened. He explained that his mother is in heaven, and had died less than a year ago. You realize that these individualized have such deeply personal and real life stories that they keep hidden within.
We have learned that the homeless individuals we serve do not like fancy breads or bagels or extravagant meals. They want French toast made with the plain white bread that you can buy two loaves for a dollar! I put some sugar and cinnamon on the top when frying it up and it smells like grandmother’s house… and they are on cloud nine! It is all these ordinary moments that feel extraordinary. It is about caring for those around us that add blessings and validate my inner being. I do not make a profound difference. These people are deserving of dignity and support and respect. They inspire me. It is not for me to judge. They are a human being and I do not question their story or their character.
Yes, I am grateful for the homeless that I have the opportunity to serve. I am grateful for every “thank you” and every “that was the best meal ever!” I laugh at their requests for “burnt sausages” and over-done and crispy pancakes and French toasts and for scrambled eggs with cheese. They are so special to me. They are loving and caring and needy human beings. And I do so little and they give me so much. They all have their own stories. They all feel and they all think human thoughts. They say my husband as well as Bonnie’s must surely be overweight with the way we cook! They all hunger—no matter how dark and flawed and uncomfortable they may make us feel. They remind me of my own inner being, my own complex and ever-changing humanity. “We are all one paycheck, one catastrophe, one medical illness away from homelessness” is a comment a friend often states… and it is so, so true.
I would like each of them to know that I see their dignity and their worth and their respect for others. I want them to feel like somebody special. I want them to know I care. I want them to know they count. They have worth and significance. I want them to know how grateful I am for them. They help me see things I would not see otherwise in life. I believe in them and know with determination and guidance they will achieve their goals in relation to their life’s purpose. I have heard it said that “God is in the details.” I believe He is. We need to recognize Him and be grateful for these smaller details that make our lives so wonderful.
At this special time of giving thanks, my gratitude goes to all those special individuals at Sojourner House who give me validation, respect and purpose. For it is in giving that we receive.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Sometimes lessons of gratitude come from the most unsuspecting places.
And we all know that GRATITUDE is SO GOOD for the HEART! ♥
Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving filled with a heart of gratitude.
Please share your lessons of the heart in respect to gratitude and you.