By Kenneth Justice
~At one of the local café’s I frequent there’s this really nice older gay guy that always comes by my table to say hello, actually he pretty much talks to everybody in there because he’s such a likable guy. Yesterday he was telling me about a former boyfriend of his who is laid up in the hospital at the moment recovering from a stroke,
“He was in a coma for fourteen days following the stroke and when I went to see him after he woke up this past week he couldn’t stop telling me how grateful he was for his health” he told me. What is fascinating about his friend talking about how thankful he is for his health is not the fact that he just got out of a two week coma…..but that he has had AIDS for the last twenty years.
Talk about someone who has a ‘right’ to complain about their health! Yet instead, his friend is so glad to be alive that the stroke, a coma, and two decades of living with AIDS has not killed his spirit, “Ever since we broke up years ago, I go over to his house once a week to do his laundry and help with the cleaning and if ever the subject of AIDS comes up he simply says, ‘it is what it is’, there’s nothing he can do about it so he just accepts it and lives his life” my acquaintance told me.
For the last few years I struggled with a toothache and unfortunately although I’ve had health insurance most of my life, I’ve never had Dental Insurance; there were a lot of days that my tooth bothered me so much and because I didn’t have the time or money to get my tooth fixed all I could was think something similar, ‘it is what it is’ and keep living my life.
Obviously a toothache isn’t even in the same hemisphere as a guy who has AIDS….but the lesson is applicable in so many different areas of life;
—) Some people find themselves with children and feel overwhelmed
—) Some people find themselves divorce or single and ache to be in a relationship
—) Some people are struggling in their career or simply struggling to pay the bills
I’m reminded of the verse “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Sure, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about the problems we face; in fact we should be concerned. But at a certain point we’ve simply got to let things go because worrying about them incessantly won’t help to improve our situation….and if anything, worrying tends to exacerbate our problems.
Thankfulness seems to be a dying attitude in Western Culture. How many people express thankfulness in their everyday life? I could be wrong, but it seems to me that more often than not people tend to express negativity, both inward and outward, and have a hard time finding things to be thankful about.
That is what my gay acquaintance was talking to me about at coffee; thankfulness. He is thankful to be alive. He is thankful that his friend his still alive. After having AIDS for twenty years his friend has found that it helps him more to be thankful, rather than to wallow in despair.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” And whether or not we are religious there is a truth that we can come away with from Bonhoeffer; it’s easy to focus on all of our problems, it’s easy to focus on the ‘big’ things in life……and in so doing forget to see all of the little joys with which we can be thankful.
—-) Do we have our health? Then let us be thankful!
—-) Do we have a roof over our head? Then let us be thankful!
—-) Do we have food on the table? Then let us be thankful!
Many aspects of Western Culture encourage us to be ungrateful; commercial advertisements tell us that we are not content; “you will only be happy if you purchase our product!” they tell us. ‘Consume’, ‘Purchase’, ‘Buy’ are terms that advertisers throw at us via the television, radio, billboards, and everywhere we walk in Western Society…….
But as we all know; that shiny new toy eventually fades, the brand new automobile eventually loses the ‘new car’ smell, and the cool new hairstyle will eventually disappear. We can either try to find joy in consuming….or we can learn to be thankful for what we have. This isn’t to say we can’t be thankful for a new car……but that we must realize material goods can never offer us eternal joy.
Just a few thoughts as I drank my coffee this morning,
If you haven’t heard I’m about to embark on the second part of my 100 coffee house tour with stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Philadelphia and more…. check out my homepage for more dates and locations; I’d love to have coffee with you!
Disclaimer; None of the people in my photos are the people I write about unless explicitly stated.
Categories: Culture & Society