I’m always talking about how grateful I am for the things I have (because I am). When I was diagnosed, one of my first thoughts was, “I’m so glad it got me and not my husband, or worse, my kids.” As terrible as it is to experience this, I can’t imagine seeing a loved one go through it. Often times when I’m feeling helpless, I think about how my husband must be feeling as he watches me toss and turn at night and groan about how bad the pain is. It’s probably one of the reasons I rarely complain, because to me complaining would just give my loved ones one more reason to feel helpless, and I know how bad it is to feel that way.
The other day I was stopped at a red light on the route I take every morning to drop off my three year old in daycare before I go to work. In Miami, we have a huge homeless issue, and beyond that, an issue with people asking for money in the streets. It seems like no stop light is sacred anymore. You stop, they ask for money or flash their sign at you, and they are EVERYWHERE. Most of us have learned to ignore them because we don’t have a million dollars and at this rate that’s what it would take to try helping all of them. We all have issues and our own families to feed. Sometimes, though, I remember what it was like when I was young. Or worse, I think about what it was like for my father to be young and in those very shoes (wearing no shoes at all). When I think about these things, I’ll roll down my window and give the person money if I have any on me.
That’s what happened the other day when I was in the car with my three year old. We were talking, singing, and dancing in our seats, when this guy with a thick blond beard that I see around all the time carrying a sign walked up to my car. I rolled down my window and read his sign. It said, “I have cancer, —–” (the rest wasn’t legible). He looked at me and saw my bald head and asked me if I too had cancer, to which I replied yes and we started talking about it. He asked me my name, I gave it and asked him his and that’s how Danny and I started talking on my morning commute. When I was about to drive away that first day he said, “Claribel, thank you so much for stopping and talking to me. I’m going to keep you in my prayers. You’re going to pull through.” His words really struck me. To the point that me, the person who rarely cries, had tears in her eyes. Here’s this guy who sleeps on a filthy mattress in an abandoned plaza beside a rundown gas station and he’s going to keep me in his prayers? All I kept thinking was, “Yeah, I will pull through, but will you?” The thought made me cry harder.
I have all these opportunities given to me. I have health insurance, an amazing group of doctors, an incredible support system, a beautiful family, etc. The reality of it all really, really hit me when my son asked me “Why is he there?” and I answered, “Because he has nowhere else to be.” Then he asked, “But where is his house?” to which I said, “He doesn’t really have one.” And the entire day my brain kept screaming, “DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?” “DO YOU SEE HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT?” And I do. I really, really do. I know how lucky I am and I see how good I have it. I feel so guilty when I speak to him because I’m able to drive away from what he considers his home. I have a car that takes me away from that street and to another and another. I get on airplanes and travel. I have food on my plate more times than I should. I spend more money than I have to and see things some people can only dream of.
Sometimes life throws these things at us and makes us realize how much time we waste complaining about things we have no control over and how little time we spend being grateful for the things we do have. Honestly, if you’re even reading this, you should take a moment to let that sink in… you’re using some form of technology to read this, probably in an air conditioned room (or car), maybe in the bathroom hiding from your screaming kids, or sitting in your kitchen. The point is, you’re alive.
Do you know how lucky you are?