A friend of mine, long since moved away and living in a world filled with the bliss brought on by grandbabies, asked me to participate in a week of inventorying my life in terms of those things for which I am grateful. I accepted the challenge because according to Oprah and my own teaching to children in my catechism classes (when I taught classes) voicing your gratitude is a perspective inducing tool. Being grateful is one thing, we all feel it at some level, but actively voicing gratitude is quite another. It’s actually work and well, it’s good work when you can get it.
So here are the parameters of my task. I am to give voice to my gratitude for three things, once a day, for a week. How hard can it be?
Day 1. Sunday, September 21, 2014
For the last three months I have been dreading this day. This is the day that my husband and I would find ourselves alone in a house, with a dog. This hasn’t happened to us since January of 1992. After graduating college, our daughter is living in Alabama and today we left our son to begin his college career at Santa Clara University.
As tradition has it, we ended our rite of passage with Mass in the Mission Gardens. As God would have it, the Gospel reading (Matthew 20:1-16) described Jesus’ parable about workers being envious of other workers who labored less time then they, but were paid the same. The landowner responded to their protests by asking them if they were envious of his generosity.
The priest went on to remind us that those who worked less were likely less able to work (sick, hurt) and the landowner was indeed being generous and giving when he paid them equal to the others who had worked longer hours. Those who worked longer hours somehow felt that their worth was lessened by this. As the landowner pointed out to them, they were paid the wage they agreed upon; they themselves did not get paid less. Yet, they wanted to feel better about themselves, by deprecating those working less hours. The lesson is that we do not need to make others feel less worthy in order to exalt ourselves. Our happiness is within us.
As I sat and listened, I peered over to my son and realized that the Holy Spirit within my husband and I has allowed us to make the proper decisions regarding our children and that our efforts have been rewarded. I am grateful that both our kids chose institutions of higher learning that will continue to grow their spirits in ways that will help the world, and that in their helping of others, they will be exalted from within.
Of course, eventually it was time to leave. I shed a tear as we walked away from the boys who were a little uncomfortable and ready to get the party started….or at least grab a shower since the rush had subsided. (Just like any family, getting ready for Mass means a mad rush for the bathroom. I think all the freshman were caught off guard.)
On the way home I pondered what else I was grateful for that I could tell you about. As I pulled out my IPad to start writing I remembered that it was a gift from my husband. I think he just grew tired of having to choose between my complaining about not being able to write when we traveled, or having me borrow his laptop all the time. (When it was time for a new machine, I opted for a desktop so that I could edit my photographs with a “real” computer, a Mac.) More importantly, I realized that there are many things I have been given by Francisco that were given to me solely so that I could pursue my little hobbies. Most importantly, I thought about how we have been like-minded in the manner we raised our kids.
I am very grateful to Francisco for his dedication to his family, friends, patients, and community. He is a a wonderful example of being a “man for others.” He has never asked to be recognized for anything he has ever done for anyone, he just keeps doing what he does. He takes care of people…all the time. I couldn’t ask for a better example for our kids.
Getting closer to home I thought about what is next for me now that the kids are a little less dependent on us. I know that I need to come to terms with this maniacal dog that is waiting for me. Oh, and a leaking toilet, and a leaking pipe in the attic. Oh yeah, I have a back yard that has been destroyed by aforementioned pooch. But you know, at night I sleep well knowing I am warm, and safe. I live in a wonderful neighborhood with plenty to do. The river levee is around the corner and offers me some quiet, outside time when I can’t always get away to the mountains or the coast. On occasion, I am reminded by the evidence of a makeshift sleeping area on the bank of the river that there are so many who can’t call any place home, at least not for long, since they are made to move according to local ordinances.
I remember someone once told me (perhaps a professor in my social welfare program, or perhaps a priest) that there are two ways to look at the world. Imagine that your world is like a pie and that there is only so much in that pie. Some people believe that there are only so many slices in that pie and that there is not enough to go around. Others see that pie and believe that if the slices are small enough, there is enough for everyone.
At Mass today, the priest’s homily included this thought: If you feel cheated because someone you consider “less worthy” receives something, even knowing that you already have what you need, then, when will “enough” ever be enough?
I am grateful for our home and even the lunatic dog that lives there. We have enough.
Good luck and prayers for the kids starting school at SCU tomorrow!