Hungry & Happy? - Part One In A Series On Gratitude
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Two packets of relish. That was dinner for about a week. A fallen crab apple from the grounds of the business next door, if I woke early enough to search through the grass before the groundskeepers arrived (to throw them away), would serve as breakfast some days. At this point though, I hadn't eaten as much as a crumb in well over 24 hours. I didn't have a dime to my name; literally no money.
Someone sent me a plane ticket to fly back to Reno, Nevada, where my old job was waiting for me. I don't even remember how I got to the airport, but there was no way I was going to miss my flight. I was hours early. What do most people do while waiting in the airport (besides being on cell phones, which I didn't have at the time)? Eat. So many restaurants... SO MANY RESTAURANTS... My hunger pangs rang so loudly it's very possible those near me heard the growls even among the hustle and bustle sounds of the people in transit.
I was so hungry it truly began to physically hurt. I felt dizzy, and I wasn't even standing. I thought I had become accustomed enough to hunger to handle it, but there had been no smells to haunt me in the little apartment I'd been staying in. Now I was faced with dozens of equally mesmerizing scents, coming at me from all directions. I watched damn near everyone around me nonchalantly scarf down everything from pizzas to sandwiches, bagels, salads, donuts, burritos, fruits... It would be 10 hours before I'd reach my destination, and I wasn't travelling via an airline that served free meals.
I felt tears welling up. My head and belly truly ached. It seemed I was seconds away from bursting into hysterical crying. As thoughts such as "why me, God" tried to creep in, it hit me:
"I'm surrounded by people eating." Obvious right? But it was not a plain observation nor was it a complaint. It was an acknowledgement of blessings. I was surrounded by people eating! I was not surrounded by people dying. I was not surrounded by people in pain, in mourning, in danger, etc. They were well. They had food. They had the means to buy that food (and we know airport food ain't cheap, haha). I was surrounded by abundance, not lack. I still felt hungry and, frankly, a bit physically ill, but I was no longer sad about it. I felt so joyous and grateful to see so many people enjoying food that my gratitude actually overshadowed the focus on my own hunger.
What a gift of seeing! Grace and gratitude danced as my spirit that day. Many insights were revealed. An attitude-of-gratitude develops naturally as a result of devotional practice, but only the kiss of Grace could allow me to experience gratefulness in such a profound way. This experience occurred years ago, but the shift in perspective has not left me. *Alleluia, dhanyavaad!*
The next time you find yourself without something you desire, even something you're convinced the body needs, take time to appreciate where others have it in abundance. Uncomfortable situations may show up, but suffering is a choice. Trials will pass.
Raise yourself above suffering. Choose gratitude instead. "Count it all joy..."