One day last week the streets around the Super Wal-Mart were clogged with cars much like ants swarming from a ‘stomped-on-anthill’. Inwardly lost in my own thoughts about what I needed to buy and yet had to do, my view of things was narrow and self oriented.
As I walked toward the entrance of the store, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man kneeling down picking something up. From the back his clothes were kind of dirty and there we sores on his head. Fairly quickly I surmised he was somewhere between down on his luck and homeless. As I moved into present moment awareness, it hit me what he was doing.
The cover was off a large cigarette disposal and the man was selectively gathering partially smoked butts. He’d pick up each used cigarette, glance to see how much was left and then put the ones with a few puffs left into a ‘baggie’. I quickly took a single phone photo (just above) just after he stood up and began to place the top back on the container.
Being a smoker is in my past. I remember the cravings that once in a while caused me scour my ashtrays for a cigarette butt with a few puffs remaining. Only once in a while did that happen and only until I could get to the store to buy a fresh pack. The guy collecting from the Wal-Mart ashtray was gathering the only smokes he could afford: free butts. Smoking is a bad habit; no doubt. I feel sorry for anyone who still smokes, but even more so for someone who has to collect what has been in other’s mouths to satisfy his habit.
In this season of giving, the wish I send out to the ‘butt collector’ is one of love and good wishes that life improves for him. But then, maybe he was an angel sent to make me more present, aware and rooted in ‘now’. Or possibly he was both destitute and angelic. I’ll never know for certain, but will long remember what he left me with.
All that’s needed to elevate my level of gratitude is pay attention. With open eyes there is always something to behold that reminds me how good my life is. In recollecting my most difficult times and bearing witness to those of others, I find reflections that make me better grasp the richness I am blessed with today.
And hard times are good in their own way, too.
Because the only way you can achieve true happiness
is if you experience true sadness as well.
It’s all about light and shade.