November 30, 2011

Gratitude Sans Attitude

One of my favorite and most inspirational bloggers in the Whole Entire World (that is called sucking up, mah friend), put together a gratitude post and as always, she humbles me. Citing things that we take for granted so often really gave me a chance to reflect and practice some gratitude.

As I bare my most honest self here, sometimes I forget to simply give thanks. Oh sure, I profess it, I pontificate and announce how lucky I am, but in the depths of my pampered soul, I still find reason to gripe. It's a bit embarrassing, truth be told, so I try to drown those gripes with louder announcements of gratefulness.

I might be in the 1%.  I say that with as much humility as I can muster. My spouse works his tail off and I don't. Or at least not in a way that provides a paycheck. We live in a nice suburb, our bills are paid, the only debt we have is our mortgage. For the past 16 years since we started a family, I awaken to the rhythms not of an alarm clock to go to a job, but to the stirrings of our offspring, either to feed or clothe or send them to school. I take care of our kids. There are days I don't always realize how good I have it. There are days I rant as a mommy who gets nothing but sass and dirty laundry as my reward. But today, I'm realizing that hearing the voice of my children means they are healthy and alive and I have my faculties. Having dirty laundry to wash means we have clothes to wear and appliances and power to clean them. Each day, I take time to figure out how I'm going to spend my day. Sometimes it feels like nothing mindful or purposeful, but the fact is, I am not beholden to any corporation or employer. I answer to myself and my ideas of how to organize my day. What amazing freedom! I pick up some freelance work from time to time, but it really is just gravy, not living expenses.

Before we had children, I worked retail. I worked long hard hours in a grocery store. There were days I worked until midnight then had to return six hours later to start the day shift. I worked holidays and weekends. I worked with honest hardworking folks and to this day, there are things about the job I miss. I never tried to support a family with that job. I lived in a modest apartment with a beater car that got me back and forth to work. I was so proud the day I bought my first new car, with hand crank windows, and no radio. But it was new, it was reliable, and it was mine.

Today I'm really considering how much time I've spent griping and it makes me blush. I hear stories about how hard it is for folks and I drive my paid-for car with a full tank of gas through the neighborhoods where I hear how hard it is. I cannot begin to fathom such a life, it barely touches my world, except by choice, not by circumstance. When I say by choice, I mean I have time to volunteer for several incredible organizations. I am grateful that I can give my time to organizations that try to help. Sometimes, I wonder if it does. I question if one person can make a difference.

I was given the opportunity to review a new book that really drives the point home. I'm about halfway through Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen. With the subtitle: transform your giving and our world, the book is a reminder of the difference someone can make. The book is chock full of information about the world of giving. We don't have to have foundations or cumbersome entities to make a difference. To quote the section I just reached, whether we are Saving a Life or Moving a Needle (page 105),  something is happening. The section continues with the question, "If you had one dollar to give, where would you invest it to have the most impact?" 

I follow up that question with, "If you had ONE HOUR to give..." and ask you to consider that. Giving isn't just about a season, but rather there is need all year. What began as an exercise in gratitude has become an exercise in giving. What I'm most grateful for is that I don't need all that I have and I want to give it away. I am grateful that I can.

November 22, 2011

*Gift Card for Groceries, *Anything...

That is what the tag read. I trembled as I picked it from the tree.

You see, every year, around this time, my church does a Twig Tree. A Charlie Brown-esque tree, filled with nothing but tags from folks around the community who could use a little extra. When all the tags are taken, we replace the twig tree with a Christmas tree.

As a Sunday School project, I had my students go and select one boy and one girl from the tree. We're planning an afternoon of shopping followed by a area-wide youth group party/bonfire. They chose a 13 year old boy and 4 year old girl. I was proud of my class as they agreed to spend the early part of their day pre-party shopping and wrapping gifts for those with less. I thought it was a good opportunity for fellowship.

They group the tags by family and so after my class had chosen their recipients, I went back to look if anyone was left out. That's when I spied the purple tag. The mother asking for only food. Or if you wanted to give something else, of course she would be grateful. My eyes welled with tears. To think that during this season of plenty, that her specific request was a way to feed her family? As I try to figure out if we should get our children another video game or electronic gadget? It was humbling. It was nothing I personally can relate to, or at least not much.

There was a time, while I wasn't hungry, I was at the mercy of the system. When I was in middle school, there was a short period of time when my brothers and I had to use the free-lunch tickets. It was humiliating. It was during the time when my parents' marriage was breaking up and truth be told, I don't know why we qualified for free lunches, but there was something in the paperwork that allowed it to happen. Mama, ever the resourceful one, figured that if we qualified, she wasn't going to pass it up. I think the way support was paid didn't show as income at that time. Whatever the reason, everyday, for 3 years, I had to walk to the office, get what seemed to be a glowing neon FREE LUNCH ticket, and present it for a midday meal. One of the boys said to me, "I thought you were rich". While I silently thought, "So did I",  I didn't have a reply for him. Instead the next few months, I stopped eating lunch, although I graciously accepted whatever my friends were prepared to throw out.

You see, I don't truly know what it's like to be hungry or poor, but I tiptoed the line and walked in those shoes.  I know how dehumanizing it can be and how others look down on you. I know how I was looked down on and I was only 12. I was a kid and felt the arrogance and elitism of those who didn't have to use the FREE LUNCH tickets. I've never forgotten how that felt and I never want to.

When I read about a mother wanting nothing more than food for groceries, my heart tugs. I image all the things that may happen when she gets that gift. Will she pack her children a lunch? Will she enjoy a meal of food of her choosing versus what is available at the food bank or soup kitchen? How many of us even consider the ability to choose what we are going to eat a LUXURY? It's something we take for granted. We open the pantry or refrigerator and gaze at an abundance.

Yet, for many of our brothers and sisters, that just isn't the case. A friend of mine who is one of the "working poor" quite honestly posted recently about how tired she was of eating rice with sugar in the morning and salt at night. By the way, this person works 60+ hours a week. By the time the rent and gas is paid? Just isn't a lot left. Sure her family eats. Rice. With sugar or salt depending on the time of day. She went to the food bank and was given a can of icing. No cake. But someone generously donated a can of icing.

I would like to help the lady on my anonymous tree tag and a few others who I know are struggling. I'm not a non profit, I'm no organization. I'm simply someone who knows that whatsoever you do, for the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. Let's do something for the least of us. (Matthew 25:40)

November 18, 2011

Running for Pleasure

the following is a sponsored post

One of my favorite things about a vacation is the opportunity to work out or run without interruption. Some of my best runs actually have taken place while on vacation. There is something liberating about knowing that you're not on a schedule, you don't have to drive anyone anywhere, or get someone else out the door. I only know that when I'm on a vacation, I do my best exercising. Granted, we cannot vacation 24/7 for 52 weeks/yearly. However, when I'm presented with a wide open day planner, the first thing I want to pencil in is a run or workout.

Imagine how thrilled I was to learn that several of the deluxe Disney hotels not only have enough characters to please even the most jaded princess lover, but also practical concessions for the desire to if nothing else, stay fit while on vacation. What could be more beautiful or invigorating than a jog around the perfectly manicured landscape of a resort property? Well, perhaps if that property actually planned trails for such a jog! In fact, a priority of mine now when I travel is to see if there are running trails. While I have the best intentions at home to run, there is something about new scenery and surroundings that motivate me that much more.

I admit it, part of my vacation plans is the chance to exercise without guilt or a nagging thought of needing to be anywhere else. As I said, running for pleasure is something that truly happens when I'm on vacation.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...