It is not often I get to sleep until near 8am, but today was one of those rare mornings. To recoup from a very busy series of weeks I extended the three day weekend to four days with the specific intent of resting and relaxing. With my mind intentionally somewhat out of gear I woke this morning with a general feeling of gratitude yet without anything specific I was feeling thankful for. Taking personal inventory is a fairly foolproof way for me to conjure up definitive things I am appreciative of. As I began to do that manner of introspection, I remembered an email attachment I received a good while back. With some effort was able to locate it on an external hard drive and picked three items from the list that caught my attention this morning:
- If your combined household earns more than $24,600 a year you are in the top 10% of all income earners in the world.
- 37 million Americans live below the National poverty line. That’s 1 in every 8 Americans living in poverty.
- 3.5% of U.S. households experience hunger every day, but worldwide the percentage is over 20% where approximately 15,639,000 children go hungry every night.
Comparing our self to others and what each of us wishes we had is about as American as apple pie. Our culture and economic system demands we practice a certain amount of envy so we can keep fresh our comparison to the Joneses, Smith’s and Brown’s. Counting one’s blessings is often more of a catch phrase than practice for many U.S. citizens.
The only time I remember going hungry (kind of) was no one’s fault but my own. I was 19 years old and a horrible money manager. My relocation has taken me a thousand miles away from home and my pride kept me from asking anyone for help. With no cash or credit, my primary food supply for about five days consisted of a large bag of instant mashed potatoes and Koolaid. For the first couple of days there were a few other menu items like a few crackers and some spaghetti noodles, but those were gone quickly leaving a full three days of ‘taters. A valuable lesson was learned about always keeping a little money stashed. With blessings and grace such an experience has thankfully not come in to my life since.
Poverty is something I suppose I do know a little about from childhood. There was a time when my Mother, Brother and I lived in a four room house (kitchen, living room, bedroom and storeroom) with inside walls of cardboard. These were not inside walls covered with flattened out cardboard boxes for extra insulation. These cardboard make up the only inside walls there were. Heat came solely from a potbellied wood stove in the living room. Yet, I don’t recall ever going hungry, always had clean clothes to wear and a roof above me. The outhouse out back was common there in “the sticks” and bathing with a pan of water, a bath cloth and soap was the lifestyle of many. Of course, I wished for better. As a kid I was a little embarrassed about my lot in life when compared to some of the “rich kids” I went to school with. But even today I know I did not “do without” the essentials of life back then although I thought so at the time.
Moving forward into my adult life I have been richly blessed far beyond anything I could have imagined as a youngster. My quality of life and standard of living has been far beyond what I could even have imagined back then. As my humble beginnings have mixed with maturity I find it is easier to locate gratitude within because I have those childhood reference points. Even when I was kicked out of home for a while by an evil stepfather when I was 15, a friend and his family took me in for a few weeks. They made sure I had food, a place to sleep and a little money for school. I am deeply grateful to the Halpin family to this very day. Sadly my buddy from this family died in a boating accident when he was almost twenty. His Mom and Dad have long since passed on too. I hope I told them how thankful I was long ago. Just in case, I offered silent thanks while writing this paragraph.
And here I am as I have been many times since beginning this gratitude blog several months ago. Many days are begun in sifting for something specific to express gratitude for. Without fail I always find lots to be thankful for. Also without fail something specific rises within me each day to express my gratefullness for. Today I thought of the family who took me in for a few weeks when I was a teen. That time was all but forgotten and had not even come across my mind for years. Once again I have it proved that the more gratitude I express, the more in general and specifically I find to be grateful for.
I am living proof if you want to change your life, focus consistently on what you have to be grateful for. Done with regularity the change can be greater than one can even begin to imagine.
Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture. Kak Sri