Gratitude, Always

This week, I got humbled.

A few days ago, I ran an errand on my way to the office, so I went a different route than I normally would. Heading up 27th meant I had to cross the railroad tracks, and of course, a long train was rumbling through as I pulled into the long line of waiting cars.

As I sat there waiting, I tapped my steering wheel and looked all around me to gauge whether I should peel off and take another route. It has to be nearing the end, I thought; so I stayed in my northbound lane and grew increasingly more antsy and impatient. Increasingly more negative.

I make my own schedule and work for family, so it’s not like I had a boss waiting to scold me for arriving to work late, but I was still stressed out about running behind schedule.

Finally after what felt like an eternity, the tracks cleared, and after two rounds of stoplights, I got to the other side of the tracks. Held up at yet another red light, I felt like pulling my hair out–that is, until I got humbled.

I noticed a tall, lanky, nice-looking man waiting at the crosswalk, carrying a grocery sack. As he started to walk across the street, right in front of me, it was like he let me look right into his soul. He looked kind but troubled, somehow. His hair was long and looked like it hadn’t been washed in days, and his clothes most likely hadn’t been either. He was dressed nicely though, and I got the feeling that he was a genuinely good person.

As he walked right past my windshield, I saw that his plastic grocery sack held a loaf of bread, and sticking out of his jacket pocket was a half pint of milk.

The milk is what got to me.

The milk is what caused hot tears to immediately fill my eyes as that light turned green.

I pulled away from that stoplight, in my nice warm Tahoe with its heated seats, thinking back to my blessed morning in my warm, cozy house.

As I had raced around the kitchen that morning getting a lunch packed for my toddler, I’d mistakenly poured fresh milk into his sippy cup from the night before that was still in the fridge. As his daddy walked into the kitchen with the correct cup, I poured the “old” cup of milk down the sink, threw the sippy in the dishwasher, and topped off today’s cup from our brand new gallon jug of whole milk.

I wanted my son to have a fresh sippy cup of milk.

I also knew there were two more full gallons in the garage.

In our extra fridge.


Now, I don’t know how far that man had walked that cold morning to get that bread and that milk, but he certainly had to work a whole hell of a lot harder to get to his half pint of milk that day than anyone in my family did.

Our cup–literally–runneth over. My blessings and my privilege smacked me right in the face, as I sat there watching that man walking back to who-knows-where with his bread and his milk.

And then it clicked.

I was supposed to go that way to work, and get stuck behind that train, so that I could see that humble man and his half pint of milk. So that I could see that what mattered was not being perfectly on time for my perfectly planned day.

What mattered was that I had a job to go to, in my nice warm car, and a nice warm house to go home to afterwards. What mattered was the privilege of having my healthy family’s company to enjoy when I got home.

What mattered was that I had the luxury of a hot shower this morning.

What mattered was that we almost always have a two gallon box of milk in our garage fridge, because we can.

All of these blessings made me cry big tears, of overwhelming gratitude. I couldn’t stop thinking of my Hank, his amazing daddy, and his sweet big brothers. My biggest blessings.

I cried because I had wasted perfectly good milk, that a hungry man would have walked across blocks of traffic for, and I didn’t even give it a second thought.


Well, I did give it a second thought, all the rest of the way to work. And as soon as my hubby got home, I gave it a third thought when I told him how a half pint of milk in a man’s pocket on a cold morning had humbled me.

We gave it another thought when he and I decided that evening to donate $100 to our local “Flakesgiving” fund, so four families could have Turkey dinners on Thanksgiving, who might not have been able to otherwise.

I gave it another thought waiting in the drive-thru Starbucks line the next day, while running errands with my mom. As we sat there being humbled, yet again by that man and his milk, we decided to buy the coffees for the carload behind us. I hope they did the same for the car behind them.

And still, I haven’t stopped thinking about that man and his milk.

I haven’t wasted a sippy cup of milk, since; either.

I am grateful for that man and my lesson. And I am also grateful for the mantra I have been saying over and over in my head ever since that humbling; a few lines borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert:

“Gratitude, always.

Always, gratitude.”

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear friends, family, and readers far and wide. Maybe my lesson can be a lesson to you, too.  

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

~Luke 14:11

Always.

Jeannette Rankin’s Legacy Lives On In Montana, and Beyond

Regardless of the outcome of the election–2016 has already been a paramount year for women in politics. For the first time in history, a woman earned the honor of being one of the nominees in our presidential election.

It’s about time.

It seems almost too perfect that it has been exactly 100 years since our first great stride for women in politics.

In 1916–exactly 100 years ago–Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to be elected to a federal office when she was voted into the United States House of Representatives by the state of Montana. I am incredibly proud to call that great state home.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that when Jeannette Rankin was voted into Congress, women in our country hadn’t yet earned full voting rights. It wasn’t until four years later, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, that women were actually allowed to vote in both state and federal elections. She fought hard for that right as one of the first suffragists in Congress, and women voters have been thanking her and her fellow suffragettes ever since.

Jeannette Rankin is a Montana legend. A role model to all women, both in our state and across the nation; she paved the way for women in politics. Ms. Rankin’s Montana memorial site is featured in an almost-haunting photograph taken and recently shared on Instagram by Kurt Wilson, a photojournalist for the Missoulian. The picture showcases how her headstone (located in the Missoula City Cemetery) got some special visitors on this unprecedented Election Day.  Of course; I can only speculate as to who put their “I Voted” stickers on her headstone, or brought her the lovely fresh flowers, but I do have a hunch.

I choose to believe they were women; women coming directly from their local polling places, proudly celebrating the fact that they had just cast their vote for the first woman to ever have a shot at being President of the United States of America.

Today, I wish more than anything, that Missoula wasn’t a six hour drive away, as I would love nothing more than to add my own tribute to that revolutionary lady. I would love to take my own mason jar of white roses to leave at that significant headstone, to thank her for her hard work. 

A woman didn’t win this election, but a woman ran

Jeannette Rankin, on behalf of women voters everywhere, we thank you for being brave. Thank you for your determination, and thanks for proving to our country that women can be leaders, too. May we carry your torch, and do you proud.

And I sure hope you are looking down on us, so you can see those beautiful stickers on your headstone.

(Photo Credit:  Kurt Wilson on Instagram)

Puzzle Pieces

 

My little boy, Hank, has three heroes: his three big brothers. When they are with us, they throw balls with him and dive onto pillow piles and build endless towers to knock down. They make him laugh like neither their daddy or I ever can. He idolizes them; he wants to be just like them.

There is an electric charge in the air on the days when daddy arrives with Hank’s three big brothers in tow. He can sense when they are coming, and he can hardly contain his excitement. The door barely clicks open and he is running to the top of the stairs, squealing; racing to get to them. 

His puzzle is complete on the days we have the boys; all the pieces of our family are in place and his world looks as it should.

But three days later the puzzle falls apart; three major pieces of it suddenly go missing, and he has to try to make sense of it in a one-and-a-half year-old brain which knows nothing of parenting plans or shared custody. Nothing of divorce, or of real mamas and step-mamas. I am sure he thinks I am his brothers’ mama too—why wouldn’t I be?

“We”—our six-pack—is all he has ever known. I do not look forward to the day I have to explain things like divorce to my precious boy. Explain why his brothers have another mama; how it’s not me. Why they have another home, too, on the other side of town, or why he will go to a different school than they do.

I don’t know how to explain why some mamas and daddies don’t speak to each other, even though they share the same children.

And most of all, I worry about explaining why his big brothers have to leave us for half of every week. Because before he can truly understand, he won’t understand, and I know there will be tears.

I don’t want him to be heartbroken half of every week, his best friends in the world lost to him again. I know it is coming. I can already see the gears turning in that precious little head, wondering; the start of the dissonance.

Lately on the days without his brothers around, his little lip trembles when he sees their pictures. He runs into their rooms, just to check.

We will see them soon, sweetheart, I tell him, soon.

Hank’s big brothers have huge hearts buried under their tough exteriors. They play and wrestle and high-five and cuddle and pick up and carry and comfort their little brother. I know they miss him, too, when they are away.

They don’t treat him any differently because I am not their mama, too. They love him just like they love each other, even though they don’t say it.

Hank has no place in one of their two worlds, but they live for him in our world. They amaze me every day with their maturity and compassion. Their resilience as they bounce between lives; their acceptance of their new family.

When daddy loads them up to take them back to their mama’s house, Hank stands in the doorway waving his special wave. He opens and closes his little fist to each of them, saying I Love You, even though the words don’t come out yet.

His big brothers answer him with the same wave, their code, their secret send-off. The words don’t come out of their mouths, either.

But they don’t have to. He knows.

 

Originally posted on Tribe Magazine at: http://thetribemagazine.com/puzzle-pieces/#ixzz4OodjbHiL

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