I spent some time with a man named Warren last night. He reminded me that it really is the simple things that bring us joy, make us smile and make us "rich." But more about him, later.
First, an update on the Glad Game at the Rivers’ household. I am thrilled to report that everyone is on board and writing down something each day that they are grateful for. Even my daughter who is at college told me, "I have my list for the month so far… I just don’t have them down on those little cards you made." Last night, when I got home, there were 4 cards lined up and dated, each with something she is grateful for. One thing I’ve noticed is that when we stop to take note, it really is the simplest things that we are thankful for.
My cousin was here this weekend. We’ve only seen each other once since we were 17, so she was unaware of my little abundance game until we talked this weekend. She emailed me yesterday telling me that she went home and read my blog. When she woke up this morning, her daughter was smiling in her sleep… she wrote it down. Then she noticed that her friend who had watched her house and her dog while she was gone had also "cleaned the crumbs out of my toaster, cleaned my microwave and the top of my washing machine." She wrote that down too. She went and took a picture of her daughter smiling in her sleep and of her dog laying down on a blanket that she had pulled into her room. She wrote to me, "you can’t imagine how just those few simple words shifted my thinking, so thank you."
It really is the simple things, that if we’ll stop and take note, calm our heart and help us realize that life really is pretty good. The things that my family and I have written down thus far, are simple, but each reflects our individual personalities. Most of them aren’t even "things." My younger daughter specifically does not want me to read any of hers so that I can have "surprises at Thanksgiving." My mom tells me that this little assignment makes her think all day long about what she’s grateful for as she plans what to write down for the day.
Now, back to Warren. He is a 46 year old man who I am a Guardian for. He has no biological family so about 19 years ago, I took over guardianship for him. He has become a part of our family but he lives in a group home with 5 other guys and 24 hour staff. He doesn’t read or write (though he can print his name). He has a very limited vocabulary, but can still communicate volumes. Mentally, he is at about a four-year-old level and has more joy than I could ever hope to have! I went by to visit him after work last night. I knew he would want to go for a ride (he always does) but this time I took him to The Dollar Tree and drove him through McDonald’s for a yogurt parfait. Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned from Warren.
Lesson #1: Music is meant to be enjoyed. Once in the van, he cranks up the volume to the cd, bops back and forth and giggles. Music playing at The Dollar Tree = music to dance to. It doesn’t matter who’s around or what they think. He dances down the aisles and giggles. Lesson #2: There is no such thing as a stranger. Our arrival in any public place is heralded by Warren’s "hi" and "how you?" to anyone who will listen. He would also hug everyone if we let him. Generally speaking, however, people aren’t as excited to see him as he is to see them. Lesson #3: Say thank you as loud as you need to. Warren can’t say a lot of words but "ank oo" are two of them. At McDonald’s, I had gotten Warren’s treat, handed it to him, and rolled my window back up. As we were driving away, Warren yelled back "ANK OO!!!" to the man who had handed it to me. It is doubtful he heard Warren but it made Warren feel good and made me smile. Lesson #4: Life has nothing to do with a list of things to do. It is just about who you are and about enjoying everything and everyone who happens to come your way.
Simplicity. It is something that is easy to understand and deal with. It is not elaborate or artificial. It is unaffected, unassuming and modest. It is not complicated, complex or compound. It is common or ordinary. Simple joys, and simple pleasures top most of our abundance lists. Warren is simple in the best possible sense. He loves freely and enjoys life fully. He is not mindful of what he doesn’t have, nor does he spend his days contemplating what he should have. He spends no time regretting his yesterdays or worrying about his tomorrows. He never tries to be anything he’s not and doesn’t expect anyone else to be either. As you probably have guessed, Warren was one of the people on my abundance list yesterday. He continues to teach me about gratitude and the simple joys of life.
In this month of Thanksgiving, what makes up your list of things you’re grateful for? It can be the simplest moment, comment or thing that brings joy to your day or tugs at your heartstrings. I know how complicated and busy life can get. So, at least for today, let’s celebrate the simple! Until next time…