One day, I looked all around me and all I could see were the things in my life I didn’t have.
There seemed to be something wrong with my automobiles all the time. I thanked God I had three because one always seemed to be in the shop, or in some state of disrepair.
It also seemed to me that I could make use of a mega-lottery win to buy the really nice things I thought I should have, especially at this time of life. Heaven knows I have a wish list that would make Santa sigh. When Christmastime, birthdays, anniversaries and the like rolled around, it would be nice to not stress about under-gift-giving or over-gift-giving.
This getting old stuff, too, is something I was not thrilled about. Seems that if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t work, and every doctor I talk with tells me how I spent too much time in the sun, and even though I don’t right now, someday, I will have skin cancer. Imagine – my insurance plan and I pay for that ray of sunshine from my medical professional. Oh, and the best one is, my docs all warned me that if I didn’t stop smoking it was going to kill me. So, I took their advice and stopped smoking years ago. Now they tell me that probably wouldn’t keep away dreaded diseases because, well, I used to be a smoker. More added fuel to my pity-party. My health had been pretty good, but how long can it last?
One day, I looked at the sky and asked God, “why?” I listened, I thought, but I didn’t hear an audible voice, so I went on my negatively wired and aimless way just feeling sorry for me.
Another day, I went to visit a friend who was in a local nursing facility after going through a series of continual surgeries to remove some fingers, part of a foot, then a leg, then both legs. During my visit, we went to a common gathering area of the facility, he in his wheelchair, and me pretending to push it, although he was really pulling me along. During our visit, I noticed his eyes wandering to those around us – other patients in the facility — and it was obvious his concern wasn’t for himself, but for others around him. In fact, at one point, he asked one patient if he would like us to pray with him, and we did.
Later, I paid my respects to a classmate who had passed away long before her time, and on the way into the funeral home, I noticed an elderly gentleman all crouched over, on crutches and having a terrible time managing the steps into the building. As I approached him, I learned he was another of my classmates who acquired a degenerative condition that would soon take his mobility away from him completely.
I recalled a conversation with yet another classmate some years prior, and I remembered how he confessed to me that his addiction to alcohol had destroyed his health, and as a result his condition was terminal. Even worse, even as he described his condition to me, he continued to sip his drink that soon after would take his life.
I have looked into the cold, hardened, empty eyes of a man who shared with me that his father habitually abused him as a child, in cruel ways, like making him stand in a circle the father had drawn in the parking lot at a picnic function daring the child to step out of it, knowing he so desperately wanted to go play with his friends.
I’ve seen the tears of parents who couldn’t afford food for their family or even one car to drive, much less buy Christmas presents.
A quote that has been attributed to the likes of Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi and others sums it up best. “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”
Without an audible word, I knew that God had answered me. I felt so ashamed.
This week, we observe Thanksgiving. “Thanks” “giving.” Not a just a holiday — an action phrase. Through those experiences, my eyes were opened, just a bit (I am still a work in progress). As a result, I have made a conscious effort to take inventory of what I have, not what I don’t have.
I believe that if we will do this, the focus will be on those in need around us. I used to think, “If you do this for me, I will do this for you.” But, perhaps, the bigger and better lesson to take away from this is, “I will do this for you, even if you don’t do this for me.”
Nothing to laugh about this time – only something to think about.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. He can be heard Tuesday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon on 88.7 WOBO-FM and can be reached at HEKAMedia@yahoo.com.