Thanks for the little things (and the not-so-little)
Each Thanksgiving, I reflect on the age-old question of what I am thankful for. It’s difficult to go beyond the traditional, surface items such as family and good health. With effort, I realize it is the more specific and smaller kindnesses that I appreciate most, like an employer and acquaintance that arrived at a moment’s notice to relocate me when I was in a dangerous, domestic violence situation.
They didn’t ask questions, they just came. Someone showed up with a mattress when he discovered that I was sleeping on the floor with only a blanket. A landlord lowered the rent, eliminated the deposit and worked to find me a place on the same day I fled, and another who didn’t evict me when the rent was late. The pixie who left occasional $20 bills in my mailbox and a dentist who made a house call after he removed my wisdom teeth; who showed up with a bag of groceries from time to time just because he “saw this stuff and thought you might be able to use it.’’There have been a whole slew of dedicated doctors and other professionals who have given their services at reduced cost, on flexible payment schedules, or completely free so that I or my baby could receive needed treatment.
I remember countless friends and family members who have stepped in to bring food, clean my house, baby-sit or transport us during times of illness, poverty and/or great stress. All seemingly small gestures to the giver, but all can still reduce me to tears.
Before I started dating my current husband, he showed up one day and produced, from behind his back, a tiny, left-handed baseball mitt I had been trying to locate for my son and sheepishly said when asked that he had “just sort of found it.’’ I tried really hard not to, but I fell in love with him right then and there.
My heart was deeply touched by a friend of the family who provided me with a full scholarship to graduate school and my sister and another friend who offered free childcare for my disabled child so I could attend classes.
An acquaintance from childhood sent me a surprise check to help with textbook expenses. There were countless others who cheered me on as I struggled through undergraduate and graduate school and held me up when I wanted to quit.
These people will never fully comprehend how much I appreciate them, and how important their contribution has been to my life. I will never be able to repay any of them, but I remember something my grandfather said to me: “You don’t have to pay me back; just do the same for your children and for others you come in contact with … that will repay me”.
The random acts of kindness shown to me haven’t made my life an easy one. Life is tough, no way around that. What they have done is made the tough times bearable and have kept me mindful of the impact I can have with even small gestures. Long after I have forgotten the best present I ever received, I will remember the hands offered to me when I needed them most and endeavor to offer my own.
I am grateful for:
The food I eat, because I remember conserving energy and rationing Saltines and grape jelly, because that’s all I had.
The roof over my head, because I remember being homeless and living in a van.
The luxury of clean, running, hot water, because I remember when I had to use public showers.
My car, because I remember using a stroller through snow, balancing both baby and groceries.
My gentle husband, because I remember what it was like to live with a spouse who hit me and scared me.
My spirituality, because it sustains me in the good times and in the bad.
My son, because even though his needs were challenging, he has taught me more than I will ever learn from anyone else, and he grew me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be. I see the world differently because of him. I am a little less judgmental, and hopefully a lot more tolerant and compassionate.
For those who give with no expectation for anything in return, or who manage to give anonymously, thus avoiding any embarrassment for the receiver.
A new day every 24 hours. A new chance to start again, to improve, to grow, to get better, give more and love more.
I’m grateful that no matter how bad I’ve ever had it, I’ve had it much better than many others. May I never forget how good I have it, even in my worst times.