So, did you ever have a little something randomly just happen in your life but it made a big impact on you anyway? I did last night.
I had just gotten done running and was walking around a track that encircles a pond by my house. I live in the inner city and am used to, sadly, seeing homeless people around. While I was walking, I saw an older man holding 2 plastic garbage bags and I waved to him and said ‘Hi’ and he smiled at me and waved too. On my next lap, I saw him again and he waved and smiled at me and I smiled back. Finally, on another lap, the guy was almost out of my sight and I knew I wouldn’t see him again. I looked over to where he was crossing through a parking lot and he smiled at me so wide, held up his garbage bags for a big wave, and the joy on his face moved me to tears.
Yes, this homeless guy had a look of joy on his face. I don’t know where it came from. Me smiling and saying ‘hi’? Him on his way to a friends or a someplace where he’ll be warm and fed? Maybe he left a place that gave him clothes and such for the winter months and that’s why he was carrying the bags. It could have been any of these…or more…but the thing was his face. He didn’t have a closed lip, little grin. He SMILED…a huge open mouth, no teeth, joyous smile that radiated. Truly.
After I stopped sniveling (and yes, I would have helped him if he had asked…that’s a given 😐), I started to have another feeling that’s a hard one to deal with. Shame.
My friend started an organization/non-profit (Stand Up For Grace) about 15 years ago and I’m on it’s board and have helped her in various ways from the start. Anyhoot, SUFG works hard to support orphaned kids in an extremely impoverished area of Nairobi, many of which have disabilities, HIV, or other issues outside of being orphaned. At Christmas, we make stockings for each child and they get a piece of candy, a pencil, and a toothbrush. That’s their Christmas and they love it. Their diet mostly consists of bread and porridge for breakfast, and then maize, beans, and rice for the rest of the day. When volunteers visit, they often provide a meal with meat which gives the kids much needed protein.
But once again, here’s the thing: the kids are spirited too. They are so thankful for each and everything they get and the annual stocking is looked forward to each year. The kids sing, write beautiful letters proclaiming their love to the people who donate to the shelter, and talk openly about their love for God and how blessed they are everyday.
And then here I am with so many ‘things’ to be thankful for. My house, furniture, food, pets, plants, water, lights, heat, and the list could go on and on but suffice it to say it’s immeasurable. The homeless man had very few ‘things’ but was still joyous. Still happy. Still willing to share a smile and make someone’s day because of it. The orphans are the same…they have so little but spread so much love and delight to everyone around them.
Why do we…meaning people like me…always think we need to have more? I went to the General ($ General🙄) today to grab a few things and as I was looking around, I thought about how there was more food there and more things available than the kids in the orphanage could even comprehend. They don’t have band-aids most of the time and I bought some off of a shelf that held dozens of different types. They eat porridge and I walked by aisles with bread, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal, milk, orange juice, etc. I get to choose what I want to have for dinner tonight, and I might bitch about it for being left-overs. Regardless of whatever I have, the kids and most probably the homeless man, won’t have anything close.
When I got home, I started looking around. Truly looking. And I started feeling so embarrassed about the amount of crap I have. Why do I worry about my lampshades matching? Why the hell do I think about buying a new rug when mine is perfectly fine? Why do we feel we have to have ‘special’ placemats for a variety of occasions? Was it really necessary to buy a new bathmat to match my towels? Did I really ‘need’ that new phone case I got last week? Am I shopping for a sectional because I actually ‘need’ it or want it?
I think we live in a culture where we see ‘things’ as making us happy. “Oooooooo…once we move to our new house things will be so great!” Or, “I’m so overjoyed with my new car!”
Look, I’m so guilty of thinking that and I spend WAY too much money on trivial things I want without really thinking about what I need. Minimalism is the new trend and organizers tell us to clean out our closets and drawers, say ‘goodbye’ (literally…I am not going to say ‘goodbye’ to the jeans I just donated that are now too small for me 😳) to the things we are tossing and get along with less.
But think about that. We have so much, we need to GET RID of the clutter…junk…crap…but there are so many people in this world that need these basics and here we are fussing and fighting over them. I get rid of a shirt because I think it’s ugly now…and how many people need a shirt for the winter? I get rid of boots that just aren’t trendy anymore…and I think about the women who could use these everyday.
I re-did my house this past year: painted all of the rooms, bought some new furniture, got some wall art, replaced old outlets, etc. And after I was done, I was pleased. Proud. But I wasn’t ‘happy’ because as I told ma, I didn’t have anyone to share my home with. I was content in it but I was still missing a piece until Bill came into my life and that’s made me happier because now it’s not just things…it’s a relationship inside those walls.
I guess seeing that homeless man and thinking about the kids I do work for makes me realize what’s really important in life. Making connections. Sharing a smile. Making someone laugh. Reconnecting with a friend…or making a new one (I love you, Susan! ❤). Hugging my ma and pop. Snuggling with Dottie and Edward. Taking meals to my neighbors. Watching my son work on his photography.
You know, I’d give up any and all of my ‘things’ to get to be with my gramma and gramps again. To make my mom’s bad liver great again. To take away the beginning of my pop’s Alzheimers. To stretch out time so I can see my sister more. To see and love on my son more than I do.
The ‘things’ in my life are OK…but when you get right down to it, they really aren’t that important after all. In 50 years, when I’m gone and playing with my dogs in heaven (God loves animals…duh…🙄) who is going to remember my outfit that didn’t match one day? Or the fact I washed my car all the time? Or that my yard was trimmed each week? Probably no one. But I hope my sonshine talks about my love of animals to my great-grandkids. I hope my grandkids remember a gramma that stopped whatever she was doing to read a book to them or get in the sandbox with them or teach them how to play poker. Because when it gets right down to it, isn’t that what life is really about?