We often measure our lives by what we don’t have instead of by what we do have. Most of the time it relates to money, and material things.
In sharing this thought with a friend this past week, we both reflected back to our college days. On one occasion she was ten cents short for her subway ride home from school. She always kept $2 in her bag just in case. There was no choice, but to use her emergency funds. So she bought a cup of coffee, and got her ten cents to cover the ride home. We both laughed at that story, but what I appreciated is that she focused on “having” vs. worrying over the fact that now she needed to replace the $2. She was also thankful for having her mom who helped her out during that time. The cup of coffee was her treat and reward, for I know how much my friend loves coffee!
When I was in college, I used to stretch $20 to keep me fed for a couple of weeks. I lived like that for the first two years. My mom would ask if I needed money, and I would say no. She would automatically give me other things, because she knew. What I did have back then was people who cared, and helped me tremendously. My NYU boss at the time promoted me to a graduate level position even though I was still a sophomore. This resulted in a huge raise, and my quitting my other two jobs. She even kept me after graduation until I could land a job in my industry. I didn’t have the experience back then, but I had someone who believed in my potential.
My friends and I always cover and treat each other when we have or don’t have money. A few years ago, I sent money to a friend who I knew was struggling. I mailed it without asking or expecting it back. My friend is doing well now, and got back on his feet. He recently told me how thankful he was for that package, and how bad his situation had gotten that he used the money to get food. I had it at the time. He didn’t. What he did have was people like me.
We focus on “not having” a lot of the time during the day, and maybe everyday. When you wake up in the morning and look in your closet, are you one of those people who feel like there’s simply nothing to wear even though it’s full of items? Or are you the other type who quickly selects the perfect outfit for the day? When you pay your bills, are you one of those who gets upset at the balance, and at how hard you work, but left with so little to show for? Or do you look at your refrigerator full of food, bed, car, roof over your head, clothing in the closet, gold in your drawer, the pictures on your phone from trips, and multiple gadgets in your home…and do you say, “I’ve provided for myself and loved ones?” During your week, do you see friends and family? Are you invited over to their homes for gatherings and celebrations? Do you reach out to anyone to spend time with them? Or are you the the type of person who feels lonely all of the time, because you think that nobody thinks of you?
The concept of “have and have not” can be actually applied to everything in our lives. Whether it’s money, health, time, and love. Most of us tend to put ourselves in the “have not” category. At times, we do have a ton to be thankful for, but there’s always something lacking and this can hinder us from appreciating these things.
Just this week I received gifts and experiences from friends and family that I didn’t expect. A friend treated me to dinner on Tuesday and told me that it’s the least that she could do for my help. What’s funny is that what I’ve given them has cost me nothing in the material sense. It’s just my love for them, and their happiness. A quote by Oscar Wilde that I had read the previous day came to mind as she paid the bill, “Who, being loved, is poor?”
When life knocks us out, takes away material things, status, relationships– we still have many things to be thankful for. The one main thing is ourselves. As long as we have the will to keep going things fall into place. We have to hold on until they do. It’s natural to worry about what we don’t have, but it’s also gratifying when we really start noticing what we do have. What’s even better is that we begin to enjoy these things, the people in our lives, and ourselves.