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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

For that, I am Grateful

This morning I attended a prayer service at my son's school.  I love this service.  Its all about being grateful and giving thanks for all that we have.

Last year Thanksgiving fell on my brother's birthday.  In our family, this holiday always means a lot of people, a lot of food and a turkey bowl, where someone ends up getting hurt and crying on the sidelines.  But, because my Dad was in the hospital, we all ( 21 of us) traveled up to Chicago and gathered by his side and celebrated in the hospital cafeteria.   We sang happy birthday to my brother. We all have our own special part in this song.  Since I'm the youngest, I have always taken the high notes, and when sung together, it sounds pretty amazing.  Although, as I discovered last Friday when I sang to my best friend on a stupid live feed video, when sung alone it doesn't sound that great.

And we didn't have a turkey bowl, but we did end up going to a friend's house and had one there.  And true to form, someone got hurt and ended up on the sidelines.

Getting to the school this morning wasn't easy.  Oscar insisted on finding matching gloves. It would have been faster for me to take out knitting needles and knit him a matching set than it took for him to find his own.  Which we didn't and if you see a kid on the playground with one glove on, that is why.   On the ride there we heard more news about the election, a bad school bus accident, another shooting.  When I walked in, I felt the weight on my shoulders.  Why is the world so painful? I thought.

And it went on.....

Why do I have to work so hard to fix other people's mistakes? Why do I have to work at all actually? Why don't elementary teachers make as much as professors?  Why do I have to do everything for everyone all the time? Why do some of my family members piss me off so much?  The litany of sorrows filled my mind and I was ready to tell the first person who I came into contact with just how painful my life was feeling.

I sat alone, out of the way but was told I was in a row that was going to be occupied by kids soon, so I stood up and sat in the row behind me with one other person in it.   A woman who was wearing a bandana on her head.   I stepped over her and sat down.  I then turned to her and introduced myself.  Within moments of chatting she explained that she had breast cancer, and not only that, she was 6 months pregnant.

What was I complaining about again?

I sat by her and watched as she took several photos of her kids. As she sang the hymns loudly.  As she embraced every fricking second of the moment.   Her warmth and happiness penetrated my cold outlook.    When it was time to give silent thanks, I thanked God that I sat next to her.

When we sang the last song which was just "Amen" sung over and over again, I looked around.  My view had finally been defrosted, and I could see clearly.  My entire family was there.  Several of my friends.  Including one, that when I actually read her t-shirt, it said "Grateful" on it.

I usually don't sing in public.  But, I couldn't help it.  Just like my family's birthday song, when we sing together it sounds so much better. And here I was with a bunch of children and a few babies, and my own babies, even though they are all huge, and my husband and my friends and my son's friends, and teachers and my new friend and I was not about to not join them in this song of gratitude.

I'm thankful for the things I can touch in my life, that I can hold, but even more, I'm so grateful for the things I can't.  The kindness that surrounds me, the love I feel as my 6-year-old waves frantically at me even though I had just seen him 3 minutes earlier. My husband who put down his keys and coffee to zip up my skirt for me before he left for work.  The wrinkles in the shirt that my 12-year-old is wearing because he folded his laundry himself. The bed hair of my 9-year-old who has been rehearsing so hard to be the best Tommy Bailey in his first play "It's a Wonderful Life". And my 13-year-old, who asked me to meet him in the school lobby so he could give me a hug before I went to work.

I may not have the answers to the world's problems, but sitting around and complaining about them is not going to help. There will always be someone who has it so much worse than you can imagine and who can focus on what is good and do what is right.  You don't need anything to do what is right other than kindness to others. Not just my others. But everyone's others.  Everyone has others, and I will be kind to them. And that includes being nice to yourself too.

Last year as we sat in a sterile, cold hospital cafeteria in the middle of downtown Chicago, I thought it couldn't get much worse than it was. Today, one year later,  and it is one of my happiest memories of my family all together.

It's perspective.  And the times that I thought I would most want to forget are now the lessons that will stick with me forever.  For that, I am grateful.


  1. These are by far the best words and emotions I have read in a long time. I leterally teared up after reading your post. Everyday we take our lives for granted instead of appreciating every moment.