For the past three years, instead of a list of resolutions, I have chosen a single word to focus my year. In 2013 the word was trust, and I focused a lot on trusting God acting through me and through others.
In 2014 I kept hold of the word trust, and choose a new word, gratitude. Well, that word was seriously tested while I recovered from a badly broken leg for the second half of the year!
Still I found so much to be grateful for – from heat and light after an ice storm, to family and friends who fed and helped me for months after my accident, to people at work, and everyone I came in contact with. I got back in the habit of writing thank you’s … and I ran out of thank you cards three times.
It seemed that each time I expressed gratitude, I received another gift in exchange – sometimes the gift of a person’s time or the sharing of something important in their life, perhaps a life lesson or the opportunity to help others in ways I had not even imagined.
I have been travelling on Wheeltrans, our city’s paratransit service for the past six months. Often the rides are shared in a contracted taxi. It’s a big city but eventually I have got to know some of the taxi drivers.
The other day I got in a cab and the driver said to the other passengers – “here’s Louise, you’re in for a great ride. She always cheers people up.” I was taken aback. But on reflection I realised my focus on gratitude had changed the way I interact with strangers. I always speak to the driver or people in the taxi or bus – if they want.
I have listened to a stranger share his grief at becoming too ill now for a kidney transplant after nine years on the waiting list, and to a blind woman share her love for her job. I have heard the worry of a woman on her way – alone – to yet another surgery, and the pride of a taxi driver from Rwanda who has put three children through university – a doctor, an engineer and a teacher.
I learned from a cheeky double amputee from Jamaica that all I need in an emergency is “food, water, liquor and weed,” and from a 95-year-old woman still living in her own home that swimming three times a week is the answer to longevity. I can’t untangle who blessed whom in many encounters, but I am grateful for every one.
One driver from Sri Lanka asked my permission and then prayed for me and my family – out loud – for most of the trip, then finished with an excellent theological rationale against infant baptism. I still feel blessed by that experience, even though I demurred from converting to his evangelical church.
So this year of gratitude has reminded me to be grateful for every human contact, never knowing which encounter might make a small difference in someone’s life, including mine.