In Pain, Consider Gratitude

You may think I am crazy, and perhaps in some ways I am.

The thought of offering gratitude when you are in pain runs contrary to how we’ve grown up in the world and I was tempted to shy away from this post topic. But, I couldn’t, mostly because that’s where I have been for the last several days.

It’s one of those inexplicable cases where I felt fine one moment and not the next. No obvious precipitating event seemed to lead to my misery.

I simply had progressively worsening pain in my right groin area that made it extremely difficult to move, bend or raise and lower my right leg. As a consequence, I relied almost exclusively on my left side and upper body to carry my weight, causing additional problems.

I’ve had something similar to this happen to me before, but never with as much pain.

I tried to understand why this was happening to me. I recognize this is one of my default settings- needing to know the reason(s) for things in my life. But, I also recognize now how useless pursuing this line of thought is. It doesn’t resolve the problem, takes me away from helpful courses of action and even if I knew exactly how the problem occurred, what benefit would that serve at the moment?

So, I tried to take a step back and accept that something had happened and it was now up to me to choose how to react.

My first thought was to feel a little sorry for myself because I anticipated that the pain was going to be with me for several days, given how sharp and intense it was.

I’ve learned to try to follow my natural reactions, but not get caught up and stuck in them. So, I pushed a little further.

Yes, there was pain, but what else. Was there something hidden that could be revealed? Could I discover any reason(s) to be grateful for this experience?

Now that is a challenging question and one I don’t feel I was completely ready for. And yet, I knew it was important to consider it. So, I asked myself, what gratitude exists here for me?

The first thought that came to me was that there are folks who are available to me to help; my wife, chiropractor, doctor, family, friends, the pharmacy. I wasn’t alone in this.

I got into the spirit of this exercise.

Instead of being angry that I didn’t get my usual 7-8 hours of sleep, I was grateful for the four hours of sleep I did get. I was grateful that I would be able to seek medical help. I was grateful that my back was okay, despite the extra load placed on it, which is a huge thing for me.

I thought about the timing of this event and expressed gratitude that it had happened when it did, rather than during my recent vacations. It would have severely limited my ability to enjoy them fully. But it happened after them and long enough before our next vacation, so I have time to recover.

I continued listing reasons to be grateful and allowed my physical suffering to exist, but not to overwhelm me. I admit this takes a certain amount of commitment and concentration, but the value to me has been extraordinary, not only for this episode, but to carry with me into the future.

This idea may seem too challenging and not one you can easily accept, but had I not opened to the idea, I would not have discovered gratitude’s great power and beauty. I ask only that you consider seeing if it might offer you the same.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 1 of 2

It was a day pretty much the same as any other. I was in my car on my way somewhere, probably listening to music from a CD. The next off-ramp was mine, so I moved over and headed up to the light at the intersection.

There he was, standing there by the side of the road, waiting. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, but our eyes met and something happened.

I knew why he was there. He needed money. I shifted in my seat, so I could reach my wallet, and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. I opened my window and felt a gust of cold air blow by me and fill my car. I handed him the folded bill. His eyes showed some life and he spoke to me, “thank you, god bless you.”

That was over six years ago, but I still remember it. One reason is because I decided on that day, to be ready in advance, for the next time I saw someone in need.

It’s became a blessed part of me.

I’d like to share some of what I’ve experienced during these brief encounters.

When I pass along an offering, the responses I receive in return are a mixture of gratitude and well wishes for my day or evening or season, especially at Christmas time. I’m offered smiles and waves. I’m called, brother or sir or friend. And sometimes, the person places a hand over their heart and bows in my direction. Once or twice I’ve seen the individual cross themselves, which brings up something interesting for me.

I might have thought that someone who has no home, no money and few worldly possessions would have given up on God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every one of my 92 roadside offerings to date has said to me, “God bless you,” and I can tell that they mean it. God seems very much alive to them and their gratitude is both deep and sincere.

I’m sure that when some drivers approach a person by the side of the road, they might worry about how they’d spend any money given to them.

Personally, I simply don’t care how they spend it. It isn’t any of my business once the money leaves me.

I’m often told by the individual receiving my offering that now they have enough money for food or medicine or a safe place to sleep indoors out of the cold or the heat. I’m not naïve, I realize some of the money might be used for alcohol or drugs, but that is their decision. How could I possibly know what they truly need the most?

As of a certain point, I decided to boost my roadside offering. I now keep a folded $20 bill in the pocket of my car’s driver side door, where it’s handy for me to reach.

Often, when I hold the folded bill out of the window and they take it from me, they automatically say, “thank you, bless you”, then as they start to walk away, they notice it’s not a one or a five-dollar bill, but a twenty. As they turn back to me, their facial expression changes, their eyes twinkle and they take in a big breath and let it out slowly. A few times they’re inspired to say something else to me, like “really, thank you, thank you so much,” or “you’ve made my day,” or “you’re the man!”

Of course, I like hearing this, but what really matters to me and creates a spark in my life, is the connection I feel. That’s the real reason I do this. I want to see and be seen in this world. I want them to know they matter to me, even if it’s just for a moment in time.

And, for some, they clearly want what I want, a point of human contact. Something more than a line of cars passing them by. They want a brief, gentle touch, where they hold my finger, before pulling the bill away and placing it on their pocket. It’s not much, but it’s enough to know we’re here together in this world.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will be Part 2 of 2 of Roadside Treasures.

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Worthiness

Do you seem to have an endless list of things to do and not enough time to do them? Even the most important ones?

There’s probably some club you could join where everyone feels this way. Of course, it’s likely you wouldn’t have time to go to any of the meetings.

I could be in this club.

I have a TO DO list almost a mile long and as soon as I start to feel I’m getting ahead, I add new things to it. Most of the time I add more than I complete.

I asked myself recently how I felt about this. The answer was, burdened.

My thinking mind said, ‘but there’s so much to do and we need to get it done. We have to organize and prioritize. We can do this, we just need to make some adjustments. Let’s identify ways to handle this.’

My thinking mind set about brainstorming ideas; I could get up earlier, avoid distractions and break up my TO DO list into smaller more manageable pieces.

Perhaps these were reasonable fixes, but the feeling part of me knew each of these ideas would only add more items to my already bulging list.

An idea dawned on me.

Maybe the answer wasn’t to identify and fix the reasons why I couldn’t get everything done.

Maybe the answer or answers would appear if I explored the belief(s) that drove my need to check off all of the items.

This felt promising.

I began to wonder what would happen if I didn’t complete each of my self-assigned tasks. As I looked at each item, I discovered a common theme. I would not feel good about myself.

But why?

That now seemed like the critical question to ask. What did completing items from my list really do for me? Well, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Beneath this, where my beliefs live, I realized there was more. It also gave me a sense of worthiness, which came through the praise of others and my own self-congratulations.

So, why is this necessary?

That answer eluded me at first, until I went inside and looked into my heart and spirit, and then I knew. I saw clearly how my ego was driven by fear and how it believed this fear was necessary in order to protect the self-image it had created. An image that firmly rested on praise from the outside and the inside. My ego believed it was vital to create opportunities (like the TO DO list) that would serve as nourishment to keep me healthy.

In the past I would have begun an internal argument with my ego. I would have attempted to convince my ego that it was wrong and that this approach would always lead to unhappiness.

But, I’ve learned that my ego plays a necessary part in my life and I no longer argue with it. Instead, I offer it love, which is the only thing that allows it to relax and calm down. I thank it for doing its job and keeping me safe. I offer it my gratitude and then share from my heart and spirit a more powerful truth. That I am inherently worthy and valuable. That I am radiant and beautiful and beloved. That I am a child of god and never need to prove myself, to be found worthy.

Looking beneath the surface, beyond my worldly concerns and thinking mind, I find a place of love. My true home.

In this light, I can let go of the significance of all of my TO DO items and they can each patiently wait their turn now.

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