2015 began without much fanfare, although my cousin got engaged to a lovely woman I can’t wait to be cousins with. A few weeks into the new year, my oncologist suggested we remove Mort the Port. I was thrilled, not because I hated Mort, but because I felt this meant that my doctor felt that the cancer would not make a comeback.
Because of my exploration of gratitude, I’ve been paying special attention this Thanksgiving. I am watching closely to see what people are thankful for. Oh, Facebook, you make it so easy to do non-scientific research. I notice that when people post what they are thankful for, it is always first and foremost, family and friends. Second, people thank God (or the Universe or whatever they believe allows them to have these entities they are grateful for) for their home, their jobs, the relative safety of living in this country. They thank for overcoming an illness or being sustained through one. They thank those in the armed forces, police, first responders. They thank for their pets. For good food. For nice weather.
Some that were unique and interesting:
Thankful that an older relative saved old photos to look at now
Thankful for dinners without electronics
Thankful for coworkers to brave difficult work alongside
Thankful I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner
Thankful for a black Friday shopping partner
Thankful for a mom who can be counted on
Thankful for the ability to pay it forward
We are wired to be thankful. It comes spilling out of us when prompted. Gratitude is the right response to this wonderful life. Even if we don’t feel like our life is wonderful right now, or if this has been a really hard year, as it has for some of us, it’s possible to see beyond the cloudy, dark moment caused by pain, loss or fear. The world is abundant! Hope is just beyond that dark cloud. And sometimes dark clouds bring rain and rain makes things grow, and that rain from that dark cloud prompts what will eventually be a needed harvest. Harvest requires rain. The thunder and lightning that come with it must be withstood by the hope of that harvest.
God has blessed us with such freedom, such hope, such opportunity. Especially in suburban, rural or fancy urban American areas where most of my peeps live.
Yesterday, I spent the first half of my day at Light of Life Rescue Mission where I work. We have a number of different programs and services, and one is to serve meals to those in need. We serve breakfast and dinner 365 days a year. On Thanksgiving Day we serve over 1,000 meals to hungry people. This is the seventh year I have done this, and it is a miracle every year. It is many miracles every year. It is miraculous to me that people care so much to help that our volunteer spots (Over 100) are full by early October. It’s a great problem to have to have to turn away so many willing hearts. It’s a miracle that so many people who are in need can experience a warm, lovingly prepared meal, served by gentle hands, surrounded by kind spirits, offering up God’s love to any takers.
I watch the faces of those who come for a meal. I carefully make eye contact and say “Happy Thanksgiving.” The responses vary. “Thank you.” Quiet, nervous, maybe a bit ashamed. “Same to you!” Hearty, booming, possibly intoxicated. “Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.” Humble, Appreciative. No response. A nod. A high five. A hug. A shy smile. It’s no chore to me to do my part to provide this food (mostly I manage the people who do the real work, and just make sure everything is as it should be, like a surveillance plane, way up in the sky, noticing all that is well and the small things that need adjusting.) It’s no chore to help a young mother find a winter coat for her little daughter. It’s my great joy, in fact. I actually have to step away, at times, to not be greedy, and allow others the joy of helping. I step back and I watch a nervous volunteer carefully check tags, looking for a 5T size coat. I watch two men calmly decide who the really cool leather jacket fits better. Strangers until that coat. One holds the other’s belongings as they try it on for size. Jovial. Laughing. Knowing there are plenty of coats for all. I bow my head grateful that we don’t have scarcity today. Food for all. Coats for all. One only need a bit of patience to wait in line for a short while. A man and woman sit down on the ground and find comfort in each other. They can’t stay there, because they are in everyone’s way, but the sweetness and the miracle of their claiming that grassy spot for a few moments to rest and feel safe and calm, surrounded by the love and care of so many people who want to reach out, to bless, to give, to love.
The news cameras and the reporters with their pens and microphones come to see. They come to share the story. The story of blessing and gratitude. They don’t know, but they bring glory to my God as they share this work on their tv stations and their newspapers. We don’t have to say it. We know who does all of this and what great things He is up to. Craig Wolfley, former Steeler and current broadcaster, and my friend, stood up to share in the chapel that the real miracle is that for all of us, the one in 100,000 NFL player, the lady next to him with stage 4 colon cancer, the drunk fellow in the back row, the ex-con by the door, the suburban stay at home mom spooning gravy, the lumber jack looking guy answering the phone at the front desk, the Hispanic family who doesn’t speak English but followed the trail of blessings to our doorstep – Jesus came for us all. To scoop us all up from our messed up ways. He knows it all. He forgives it all. All that we are ashamed of. In Him, we have eternal life, and we begin an epic adventure of faith. Faith that allows people like me to have astounding hope that crushes all fear.
As I wrap up my challenge of writing down 1,000 blessings I’ve been bestowed with, I wonder how I lived before. Not noticing. Not making note. Not thanking as a practice.
I’m thankful to write this. I’m thankful anyone would read this. That it would bless anyone in any way. It’s what I have to give. My observations organized into ideas and then words. I hope you like it. I hope it matters to you. I hope it is a blessing to you and that it might somehow make it’s tiny way into your long list of things you’re grateful for.
I can honestly report to you that I am doing OK. I do not feel afraid right now. Something has been allowing me to live above my circumstances. Allowing me to live up higher and float slightly above the reality we face. It’s not illegal drugs 🙂 or tired cliches of God not giving me more than I can handle. It’s not a unicorn farting sparkly fairy dust or a mantra.
Tomorrow is my last day of chemo pills. Wooooo!!!!
It’s true that there are some real jerks out there. The guy who cuts you off in traffic. The jagoff who doesn’t hold the door for you when you have your arms full and a four year old in tow. The cashier who seemingly joyfully closes her lane just as you walk up to the register. That Succop kicker guy who single handedly ruined the Steelers chances at the playoffs (ok, ok, it was their own doing, I know.)
But let me tell ya something. People are also really awesome. Here are some examples:
The nurse who jokes around with me when she pokes through my skin to access the port in my chest to administer poison and steal samples of my blood to the extent that I look forward to seeing her.
My mother who helps take my mind off the icky stuff going into my veins by chatting, letting me teach her stuff about her iPhone and playing games like Scrabble.
My dad who reads my mind and makes homemade, ridiculously good chicken soup.
My husband who plays pharmacist (did you take your pills?) housekeeper, chef and World’s Best Dad while I’m out of commission.
The owners of this place and the owner of these places and this web site who all donated to my crazy 5K fundraising project, which you can learn about here Seriously, go learn about it and donate. I am the number one fundraiser of the WHOLE MARATHON right now. Go look now before someone ousts me (which is definitely going to happen.)
This lady. She is ridiculously awesome. Excellent writer. Funny as all get out. Lover of Pittsburgh. Friend of the homeless and sick children. Generous beyond measure.
Also tons of individual friends have donated, bringing me significant joy. (and a sense of “oh crap, I really need to run this race to avoid public shame!”)
My friend who I haven’t seen in about 15 years, who made me two handmade hats for the cold weather!
The friends who have sent me tea – the only thing I can drink during Chemo Weekend. We are having The Pittsburgh Tea Party when this crap is over and done with.
The friends who have given me cool scarves to wear because the cold air just is horrible.
The staff on my team who have sailed the ship beautifully while the captain is barfing below deck.
Senders of cards and packages – you have no idea how this brightens my day!! Mail time (Blues Clues reference for the parents out there) is the best!
The friend who sent me the GREATEST LOTION KNOWN TO MAN that is keeping my hands and feet from horrific side effects from one of my chemo meds. This lotion is magical. So is this friend.
The friend who has three biological kids, five adopted kids and a full time job who cooked me freezer meals and got me a Wonder Woman snuggie – this woman deserves an award!!!
The friends who have whisked my child away to do fun stuff.
People who read and share my blog. I am still blown away that anyone besides my mom reads this.
So, you…I say to you…