This was how I started my week. Just like any typical day, I dragged myself to my gym (a painful chore) and forced myself to lift weights despite a long day at work and a desire to go home to a glass of wine. But the music in my headphones had me feeling strong and empowered soon enough and I managed to get in a decent set. Proud of myself for showing up, 45 min later I walked cheerfully out to my car while chatting with my boyfriend about what to make for dinner.
And this was the scene I was greeted with.
I panicked. My purse and my sunglasses were gone. And all of a sudden, what was supposed to be a relaxing evening turned into filing a police report, cleaning up shattered glass and desperately calling the bank.
It should have ruined my night. But somehow, within minutes, I was overtaken with an overwhelming sense of calm. At first I couldn't place it. Even my boyfriend kept asking me, "How are you ok with this?" But I realized that it was because I was completely full of gratitude. Gratitude, that despite the costs to repair my car, I had a job that allowed me to pay for it. Gratitude that I wasn't hurt, that I had someone to hug me and that I had a warm bed to go home to. Gratitude that I didn't have my laptop or phone in the car and that they only broke a single window instead of completely destroying everything. Gratitude that I even own a car in the first place.
I accidentally found Gratitude a few years ago when I was searching for Peace. (I found Peace, accidentally, when I was searching for Happiness. But that's a whole other story). Gratitude is something that everyone talks about but few have actually mastered. (I haven't mastered it either. But I'm working on it).
It turns out that Gratitude isn't about appreciating what you have but rather protecting the value in what you've earned. Few things come to anyone for free and you make a trade or a barter in order to receive something. You trade time and energy to receive a career. You trade kindness and compassion to receive a friend. And you trade love to receive love. Yes, there are exceptions but I'm convinced that this is the general formula.
During this Thanksgiving season, we're all reminded to "Give Thanks." For most of us, it's easy to see all of our blessings when things are status quo. But the other part of Thanksgiving is being able to be Thankful for Giving. That's the part that's harder.
So why Give? Inflation is a nightmare, rent is through the roof, and money seems tighter than ever. But I found that when I had the least to give but gave anyway, I somehow received it all back in multitude. Not financially necessarily when I gave financially (although sometimes, oddly enough, I did) but in a bigger way. Like tiny inconveniences became just that. And things that philosophically mattered actually started mattering the most. Not only is there Peace in that, but there's Power in it. I cared less about opinions of small people and more about becoming a bigger one.
So I hope that this Giving Tuesday inspires you to continue your pursuit of Happiness or, if you were like me just a few years ago, to simply start it. I, of course, poured myself into these girls in Africa who appear to have little to be grateful for but somehow, despite having challenges I'll never understand, have so much more than we do here in the U.S. They share without being prompted, they care for each other without being reminded, they hold each pencil, each crayon, and each notebook as a precious item yet share it with anyone who doesn't have one. They celebrate each other's victories and cry at each other's losses. In a world where children are buried, girls are raped and bellies go hungry, they're grateful for each day that they don't. By feeding their Happiness and their futures, I'm accidentally feeding my own.
Please consider donating. If you have time, donate that. If you have a few extra dollars, $5-10/month can change a life. Whether you support Human is Kind or any other worthwhile organization, I can promise you that what you gain will far exceed what you've given. Not that you should want to receive in order to give, but somehow you just do.