Thursday, October 3, 2019

Road Lesson Three: Gratitude

From a talk I gave to Mental Health Con, Sept 28, Estherville, Iowa, titled, "Eight Lessons I Learned on the Road" ...

This leads to lesson number three – Cultivating a sense of gratitude. On the road, I’ve had the privilege of connecting and reconnecting with all manner of people. These were people who shared a piece of their lives with me, who opened up their homes to me, made room by their fire for me, who broke bread with me, extended to me acts of kindness.

To a person, these people had been through hell and back. And they managed it with grace. How did they get through it? All around me, I discovered, were lessons in gratitude.

Heaven help, after the website I was writing for kicked me to the curb, after my heart nearly stopped beating, after I was unceremoniously evicted, after a dear friend flicked me off like a flea, I had every reason to feel bitter.

After nearly two decades, working tirelessly on behalf of those with depression and bipolar, and what did I have to show for it?

Wait! For one, I was still breathing. At the hospital, I encountered a medical team, from cleaning lady to head surgeon, who were unconditionally dedicated to restoring me back to life. So now it was as if I were presented with two possible default settings. This one or that one. Once I made my choice, it would be very difficult to undo it. From now on, when I felt my emotions flooding to the surface, they could go in one of two directions – bitterness or gratitude. Which would it be?

March, 20017 ...

I've pulled into a free camp site in a city park by a lake in a small Texas town. There are tornado warnings. I decide not to pitch my tent, and instead opt to sleep in the car. In no time my legs are crying out for a place to go. I oblige by rolling down the window.

At three in the morning, I awake to an ungodly beeping. I haven't switched the key completely back in the off position. My battery is completely drained. Four hours later, I get to meet Frank and John. They were loading their truck nearby and very kindly came to my assistance and got me up and running. I tell them a bit of my story. This moves John to request a prayer. We bow our heads as he thanks the Lord for bringing us together this day and asks the Lord to look over me on my journey.

Hard to hold back the tears.

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