If you had to write down 3 things that were going well right now, what would they be?
A few days ago, I thought that was a clever set-up question to ask - kinda challenging but would drive home the message that we all have things that we’re thankful for, right? And because focusing on abundance and what’s plentiful is a foolproof way to cope with whatever life throws at you, especially in this COVID-19 world we’re stuck in.
But then the details started coming out about a crazed man going on a shooting rampage in my neighbouring province of Nova Scotia. And how many lives he has forever changed. I think the number of people killed is up to 23.
I began thinking about the children who have been left behind. How horrible that must be. How alone they must feel. How cheated and victimized and foresaken they must feel. Even if they do get past the violation of being terrorized and running for their lives, they will have to face the grim reality that their mom or dad is gone forever. How do you recover from that?
My clever set-up question didn’t seem so clever any more. To try to talk about abundance? Who am I kidding? How is there any abundance in losing your mother, your sister, your daughter? There’s no ABUNDANCE in all that suffering. I mean, that’s a whole other level of fear and tragedy.
I started to question whether my message would make any difference at all, or was it just a tale told by an idiot, full sound and fury, signifying nothing?
And then I read a news story about a grocery store clerk in Ottawa who was fearful of going to work every day. But she didn’t have much of a choice. She had to work to support her family.
She told of the frustrations of some customers, how they were angry at HER and verbally abused HER because the store didn’t have any toilet paper or bleach or whatever they were looking for.
And then talked about those who had lost their jobs, but ironically were able to stay at home, presumably safe at home, and receive $2,000 a month in emergency COVID funding from the federal gov’t, and how discouraging that was to her since she her paycheck was actually less than that and yet she was putting herself at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to her children.
Again, my clever question was even less clever.
Her story wasn’t all dark, though. She did mention the joy she felt from customers who thanked her for being there so they could bring food home to their families. And about how some even gave her gift cards for McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s as a small sign of their appreciation.
That was the glimmer of hope, the little bit of abundance, in her situation. It probably didn’t feel like much given the weight of the stress she was carrying.
But it was something.
Just one small thing that was good and positive.
Later that day, I stopped at a grocery store myself to pick up a few things. The cashier held up the bag of peppers I wanted and said to me, “This is going to sound strange. But what colour are these? I’m colour blind.”
I paused and said, “actually, that’s not a strange question. They’re green.”
It struck me again that this person was doing his best to do his job and provide good service to me, rather than just charge me for some random produce item and me not notice.
He was being honest & authentic. By working his shift, he was allowing me to get what I needed to feed my family.
I know that sounds kind of strange. Being thankful for a grocery story. They’ve always been there. Some even are open round the clock. I hadn’t really thought about how much work was needed to accomplish this every day. It was just a given.
But today, it’s not a given. Things could be shut down overnight, including grocery stores. It’s not a constitutional right for me to be able to buy groceries. And yet it is the most basic of needs. If you can’t feed yourself or your family, nothing else matters.
So when the cashier kind of sheepishly asked me what colour were the peppers, the act of buying groceries took on a new dimension and meaning. I was truly thankful for him being there that day.
Again, that may sound strange but it was one of the 3 things I wrote down. Actually, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 24 days. You can see the yellow stickies.
Remember my clever question?
When I started, it seemed a bit contrived and artificial to write down 3 things every day. But after doing it now for a few weeks, the things to write down flow a little easier because I’m starting to see the good in my day, things I didn’t notice them before. Sometimes you just have to “take your coat off and take a look around” as Kacey Musgraves sings.
So give it a try.
Write down 3 things you’re thankful for. And do the same tomorrow. And after a few weeks, you will have begun to change your behaviour on what you notice. And some of that fear and anxiety we’re all feeling won’t be as strong.
Of course, none of this is going to help the families in Nova Scotia. Right now, they need time to grieve and to try to process it all, if that’s even possible.
In all the darkness they’re experiencing, there really isn’t any abundance or things to be thankful for. Not yet, anyway.
But if we look at it in the same way those customers did who gave gift cards to the grocery store clerk … what I mean is the act of giving. Of being kind.
Sharing the good in our lives with others. If we can do that, let’s say for the next month, I bet that positive energy will eventually find its way to NS through someone, someway, somehow.
And then, maybe, a hint of that abundance will appear in their broken lives.
Take care. Be well.