March 3, 2012

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Embrace what you have been given and thank God for it

Patti LambRecently, I helped answer phones at a company that was temporarily short-staffed. I was given instructions and placed at the desk of an employee who was away on sick leave battling breast cancer. It was difficult not to notice her personal belongings—a stunning photograph of the woman with her daughters, an oversized calendar full to the brim with names and notes, and a simple greeting card.

Several times when clients called, I had to reference the calendar. That's when I noticed that everything penciled in on the calendar was related to her medical appointments. Terms like "nuclear injection" and "surgery" filled the days. Doctors' names and phone numbers were written in the corners.

Once, when I reached to answer the phone, I knocked over the greeting card. I picked it up and read the front. "Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are."

That one, single line said a lot.

I thought about this woman and how everyday activities—ordinary freedoms and privileges like driving to the grocery store or the simple act of making dinner—are now difficult because she is ill and weak. Now her calendar contains words like "chemotherapy."

Later, I researched the origin of that greeting card line and found it to be from a lovely poem by Mary Jean Iron.

In part, it reads, "Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall … want, more than all the world, your return."

It is easy to take ordinary blessings for granted. I suppose it is human nature to overlook all that we have, and recognize it only in hindsight.

When reminded, however, we can stop chasing what's "better" and be grateful for what we have.

Admittedly, I don't always enjoy helping my 7-year-old son, Henry, with his homework. But it is an experience that I should embrace.

Some mothers would give anything to have that quality time with their children. It means I am not lying in a hospital bed somewhere far away, unable to help. Plus, it means that my son has been blessed with the capabilities to do his schoolwork.

I've noticed that bad days make the ordinary days feel positively radiant. If we look for a bright side, we'll find that perspective is a free gift that comes along with our problems.

I recall a sign in front of a church that said, "Be thankful for dirty dishes. It means you have food to eat."

"It's all about context and perspective," my friend recently reminded me.

That same friend told me that her 7-year-old son said, "I want yogurt."

She beamed with pride. Her son has special needs and has been unable to communicate verbally. She explained that the other children in his therapy group can say three sentences, while her son can only say one.

"But it's about perspective, and I must be grateful that he has improved so much from a year ago," she said.

My friend reminds me that we should embrace what we have been given and thank God for it. We should enjoy the ordinary day because it really is a gift.

May it never take a setback, an illness or a loss to make us recognize the grandeur of the ordinary days with which God blesses us.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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