The other day while driving home from the grocery store with a car full of groceries, my mother saw an unforgettable scene that many of us have seen countless times, sometimes on a daily basis. There was a young man in weathered clothing standing on the side of the road by a stoplight with a torn sign, a young woman by his side and a thin frail dog by hers. A young couple, which could have been any one of us in a moment of hardship. As the light turned green my mother continued to drive, passing the couple and making her way home, asking herself the same questions that we all do in those moments.
After continuing less than a mile down the road, she found herself turning around and returning to the grocery store, hoping that the couple would still be there when she returned. After picking up sandwiches, cheese sticks, and various other snacks, as well as bottled waters, and some dog food she returned to that very stoplight. In that moment the light worked in her favor and had turned red allowing her to stop, some may feel that is a coincidence, others may feel it is by the power of someone bigger then all of us, while others may chalk it up to everything happening for a reason, but however you look at it in that moment the stoplight was on her side.
As she rolled down her window she handed the bag of groceries to the couple and without hesitation they broke out in tears of gratitude as the young woman reached into the bag, grabbed a bottled of water and poured it into a small bowl they had for their dog.
As my mother shared this story with me, it validated yet again the quote that I was raised with, words spoken to my sisters and me by our father every night as he told us, "You are the best, you can make a difference, and you can change the world."
In that moment that simple act of selflessness made the difference for that young couple and their furry companion. Although, my favorite part of the story is the moment when, without hesitation, their dog's needs came before theirs -- a moment of selflessness on their part as well.
It is so easy to get caught up in the rise and grind of life, in promotions, material objects, financial success, status, or things that at the end of the day mean nothing if we don't open our eyes to the world around us.
How many times do you find yourself being grateful, truly grateful for the little things? Clothes on your back, a roof over your head, a warm meal to eat on a cold day, a cold glass of water on a hot day, two feet beneath you, eyes that can see, ears that can hear, loved ones surrounding you and life in general.
Instead of focusing on the next new outfit you want to buy, the dream house you wish you had, whether you want sparkling or still water, wishing you had more, you had better, or getting worked up over the little things rather than remembering to be grateful for the simple things in life. We are all guilty of this at some point in our lives, and if we are honest with ourselves we are all guilty of this on nearly a daily basis.
I, myself, have been guilty of those very things many times in my life. Unfortunately, it took having my world turned upside down for me to really start to understand the simple joys of life. I remember that day just like it was yesterday and I remember the moment when my world snapped into perspective. I was laying flat on my back with several nurses surrounding me and as I looked up to the cold sterile lights of the hospital room they slid the backboard under me for the first time; in that moment I felt helpless and completely out of control.
I felt the cold plastic against my skin and from my torso down I felt nothing. As they counted to three and lifted me over onto the hospital bed, I quickly started to realize everything I knew had changed. I didn't understand, but in that moment I was thankful, I was thankful to be alive, and I knew that everything that seemed like the "end of the world" yesterday was nothing compared to what I was about to experience.
Moving forward I realized that in a moment our world can forever change; without any hesitation and without any forewarning everything we know can be torn out from under us.
So here is my challenge for myself and for all of us. Next time it feels like it can't be worse, remember it can always be worse, and remember to be grateful for all the blessings you do have. When you pass by an individual that has had to swallow their pride and do one of the hardest things anyone could possibly have to do, let go of judgment and find it in your heart to have a moment of grace and compassion to offer a lending hand simply because it is the right thing to do.
When you get caught in the chaos of life remember to slow down and enjoy the simple joys in life because no matter what happens those are the moments that can't be bought, or replaced with something better. Most of all remember that life is too short to speed right through it, it is too short to hold a grudge and it is too short to not tell those in your life just how much they mean to you.