Last year around this time, I was driving Nadia to preschool in the morning. As we drove down Main Street here in our little town, I couldn’t help but notice a large group of people standing in a line outside of The Epic Center that is run by the Swanton Alliance Church. I was curious to see what was going on because… well, it had to be something good to get that many people to stand in line in the cold waiting for the doors to open, right? A concert maybe? Nah, it’s only 8:30 in the morning.
I did the rubber-necking thing and turned to look as I drove by, but when I saw what the “event” was, I nearly started crying. My expectations for something “cool” were shattered by the reality of real-life circumstances.
All of those people were standing in the frigid cold, on display for all of my fellow rubber-necker’s because they needed clothes.
The event was for free clothes.
Let me be clear that I’ve never considered myself to be “rich” in the sense of the United States of America’s definition of the word. I’m a thrift store shopper- when it’s time for Nadia to get new clothes because she’s outgrown her old ones, we first go to the thrift store to find some things & then whatever is missing from her wardrobe gets purchased as cheaply as possible elsewhere. And I, myself, have half a closet full of great finds I’ve picked up from the thrift store, too. I happily live on a budget, although I didn’t always evaluate whether or not something was a “want” or a “need.” I’m still working at that, but I’ve gotten better. But in that moment it hit me that compared to most people in the WORLD (& many in my own little community), I am rich.
We’re in a boat load of debt from house repairs. So much that it almost gives us panic attacks if we dwell on it too much…. but we’ve never had to worry about what meal we’ll eat next or if we’ll have clothes on our back. And to get really honest, if I had to stand in line outside on a cold morning and have cars driving past looking at me knowing that I needed clothes, my pride would kick in, and I’d try to find another way. I don’t know what that says about my character, but it’s simply the truth. I admire those people that don’t let pride get in the way of their very real needs. There’s truly nothing to be ashamed of… and thankfully there are organizations and charities that will provide for those who need it.
That happened last year, and a year later, I saw the same thing. The same event. The only difference is I saw the signs advertising it on the building last week, so this morning I made a conscious effort to not turn and stare. People don’t need that. But the one thing I DID notice this year gave me a new perspective. While I was at the stop sign on the corner, I saw there were once again many people crowded around that door, but instead of them looking ashamed or frustrated like I would imagine, they looked grateful. Not angry that they had to be there. Not bitter because their lives aren’t as easy as some other people’s… But thankful to be invited to a place that will joyfully fill in the gaps where they need it.
The heart behind my gratitude journals is this- we ALL have things to be thankful for, and I’ve found that by slowing down for just a few short minutes each day and physically writing out the things that bring me joy, my perspective shifts from the things I don’t have (or the things I want) to everything I’m already blessed with. It gives me one more moment in my day to say “Thanks, God” and one more way I can use what I have to bless others and shine that light into their lives. For me, it’s not enough to merely think about those things, because with the hustle and bustle of life they’ll be forgotten rather quickly. So by writing them down, just a few each day, it keeps me fueled with gratitude & gives me a book to look back on and smile about.
The pages are laid out as follows:
-Inspiration For the Day: (think of this as a place to write out a quote, scripture verse, or inspirational story about something you’ve seen… like mine would say something like “remember the joy at The Epic Center this morning”)
-Today I’m Grateful For: This is where you would write out… you guessed it… your gratitudes. 🙂
-I Took Care of Myself By: This section is important, too… We can’t effectively take care of others unless we are well taken care of, too. As a mom, I’ve learned this the hard way. Living day after day with a newborn…unshowered, hungry because I’m the last to eat, disheveled, in serious need of a haircut, so tired that I don’t even have the energy to cry out all the tears I want to cry. Yeah, you know. 😉 My mama always told me during that time, “Marybeth, you have to take care of yourself, too!” But I always felt guilty if I did… So if this is you, I’m going to just say it- STOP. SHOWER. Put your baby in a dang swing where you can see them & SHOWER. Fix your hair. Put on some makeup. EAT. And if your child is older, by all means read a book for 20 minutes while the TV babysits them, paint your nails (or better yet, put on some Jamberry wraps- haha!), exercise and work up a good sweat so you feel stronger & healthier… And then write it down in your book.
-Now I Feel: This little spot with the smiley faces that you can pick seems silly- and it is- but it’s also important. Cause once you do something good for yourself & you feel great, you’re going to need that reminder that it was worth it. 😀
There are 100 pages in each hand-bound book, and I hope each and every page will add a little joy into your lives. You can find them here. And, as always, proceeds from each journal will go towards a cause that will bring hope to those that need it most.
Cause despite our circumstances & our bad days, there is always, always, something to be thankful for.