When I go out of town, I prefer to take cash rather than use a credit card. Usually I do not need much. Often times I spend my meal times in my hotel room eating tuna fish, microwavable meals that do not require refrigeration, and if I am in the mood to splurge (on my diet and my budget), I enjoy cans of potato chips. It is a simple way to travel for work. It helps me focus on things other than wondering what people think of me eating alone in a restaurant.
Before I left for the week, my wife offered to get some money back from a debit purchase at a local store. She requested $100. This offer would save me time and get me what I needed or my upcoming trip. Michelle is good to me. We waited as the self-serve register made up its mind and noticed that instead of dispensing five $20 bills, for some reason, it dispensed twenty $5 bills.
This seemed odd. She handed me some of the cash and we got in the car and said nothing about how registers work, about the inconvenience of carrying several bills, or about how silly we thought Walmart works. Plainly and simply put, we did not use the opportunity to gripe and moan. That may not seem like a great accomplishment, but I tend to whine over stuff that absolutely will not matter in a hundred years.
When we were younger, and I was certain that I wanted her to be my wife, I planned a trip to Harrah’s Casino, just over the mountains near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Unbeknownst to her, I determined her ring size earlier in the month. Without her suspicion being raised, I bought a ring. The grand plan was to enter the hotel room where we were staying, ask her to the balcony, get down on one knee, and pop the proverbial question.
On the way there, we pulled over to the welcome center for our neighboring state and walked down to a scenic view. Maybe it was the combination of the fall leaves. Maybe it was the light cloud cover trying in vein to veil the sunlight. Maybe it was my inability to hold onto gifts for people once I have purchased them. Whatever the reason, on that pathway, overlooking the mountains, in the crisp autumn air, I gave her the ring and we began our “official” journey together.
Each time I travel alone on the road that passes that welcome center, I make a point to stop and walk the pathway that led me to her. Sometimes I snap a picture and send it to her. Other times I just think about what a lucky man I am, consider the goodness of the years that followed our time there, and continue my travel. Until now, no one, not even Michelle, knows about my thinking spot. This trip, access to the center was blocked. It was closed. Maybe renovation. Maybe roadwork. I did not worry for it much.
The next exit on the interstate going east is home to a convenience store. Surprisingly, I made it there without my bladder bursting. After taking advantage of the restroom and carrying two more diet Mountain Dews to the counter in order to pay for another needed stop at a rest area, I saw a note that said, “Need 5’s Please!”. After looking at the attendant and taking a picture of the note, I asked, “how many “5’s” do you need?”.
Some will hear this story and claim coincidence. Some will read this article and criticize my choice of words and my lack of great grammar skills. Some may even doubt I have a firm grasp on reality when they read what follows. While I do have certain obligations to God, family, friends, and work, the opinions of others, even when good, never really did much for me.
Comfort comes to me knowing that things work out. Not that there was some Divine plan for that gas station to have the number of $5 bills they needed to operate that day. Not that my wife and I are only pawns in the plans the Source of all things has, to supply the needs of gas stations in neighboring states. But, in some strange way, that when you look for good things, you will see good things.
Everything I have ever been upset over in my short time on earth has either turned into something better or has gone away. Anything I have wasted energy on, with anger, has dissolved into a funny story or a non-factor in my everyday living. This world has issues. There are so many troublesome issues and occurrences that so many are dealing with. Hunger, poverty, war, disease, depression.
It is tempting to feel guilty for feeling good. What right, we might ask, do we have, in celebrating our wins, when there are so many that experience loss? How can we enjoy our vehicle when others must walk? Should we really be happy about our tuna fish, ready to eat meals, and chips, when others eat one bowl of rice a day… if they are lucky? These are important questions. There is only one answer.
Without the enjoyment of all that we have, regardless of the experience of others, with one hundred percent enthusiasm, it is impossible to be grateful. Without gratitude for what we go through and have in our lives, it is impossible to share the love of living with others. If we claim that life is more than what we possess, then the things we possess should be enjoyed and dismissed from our minds.
As for the struggles of others and the world, we should be mindful that the experience of others is not our experience. Yes, be kind. Yes, be loving. Yes, be the work of the Creator in the lives of those around you, but come from a place of gratefulness. Grateful for everything. Smiling in the face of both the good and bad years, knowing all the while, that what we have or do not have means little to our ability to Love.
It is only this. We do not know what plans have been made for us. Even more, we know nothing about what plans have been made for others in the world. When I am tempted to bemoan the situation of the world or my own life, I hear the steady beat of the Divine whispering, “You wanna give it a go?”. My response is always that I do not. We have one mind, capable of one thought, at a time. Do not confuse worry for prayer and do not call what has been given to you into question.
When faced with the decision to be grateful, happy, and full of joy, or to be concerned, guilty, and full of shame, choose the former three and not the latter. Be philanthropic, generous, and share your things, but do this knowing these were never your things in the first place. Be quick with a smile, patient in listening, and push yourself to love. Above all, give yourself a break. Of all the things I could say about what a miracle you are, the only one that matters is the one you might be remotely tempted to believe.