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.


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