Thursday, March 20, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude

In the mid- to late 1980's I lived in south Florida, on the east coast, my mailing address was Fort Pierce though I actually lived outside of a small community known as White City. The house I lived in had been a bachelors officers quarters during WWII. After the war, the quarters were sold to members of the community. This particular house was moved to a site that sat at the center of an acre of an old orange grove. I had neighbors on either side, the neighbors to the east is a tale for another day. Still working on that one, it is a hard story to bring to paper. Today I shall share a story about the people on the west side.
Bill and Sheila. Quirky couple. Husband and wife driving team for a local produce trucking firm, mainly oranges and tomatoes. Around 1987 tough times hit the trucking industry, and the driver pay took a real hard hit. Brokers started coming up with runs and hauls that were more suited to single drivers than teams and Sheila opted to stay home for a while and try to find a regular job. Bill was out for weeks on end, at times stuck waiting for a trip to take him further from home and wife. Money was very tight for them, and she would share with me from time to time how discouraging her life had become, having been unsuccessful in finding employment.

I was working a regular job, and my first husband was as well. We were not wealthy, but we were not in want. I knew that Sheila was in need of supplies, and double purchased on my weekly grocery trip. When I went to Winn Dixie, I bought in twos, for each item I placed in the cart for us, I placed the same item for her. Bread, eggs, coffee, milk, butter, vegetables, proteins, paper supplies, cleaning items, everything.

When I arrived home, I sorted the items and traipsed through the back yard over to her trailer. I knocked on the door, handed her the bags, and said, "Thought you might need a few things."

This gesture was well received, at first ... until the next week or so later when she told me that if I felt the need to make her a pet charity again to not buy "x" brand that she preferred "y" and that she would really rather me give her cash.

I was 28 years old, and her reaction crushed me. I had not intended to be perceived as taking her on as a pet charity. She was my neighbor, a friend. She had a need and I had a means to fulfill at least a part of it.

Why, you may be wondering, is Ellen telling us about something that happened almost 30 years ago?

Over the past 3+ years, I have been in a position of having less than I was accustomed to in the past. Friends, family, and strangers have stood in the gap for us time and time again. Food, supplies, money, gifts large and small have been graciously extended, and very gratefully received.

Not everyone eats the same brand of vegetables, shops at the same stores, uses the same brand of toilet paper or drinks the same beverages. I have had no problem whatsoever trying new and different brands and items, I have been challenged to discover new means and methods of meal preparation, and I am not complaining. Because people cared enough to share.

I made a comment to someone yesterday about having an attitude of gratitude, and this is what came to mind. Sheila's reaction was hurtful to me, and I had trouble letting that hurt go for a long time. I do not always know what to say when people extend grace to me, I fumble for words and get all flushed and bothered. I am an emotional person, and often get teary eyed and choked up. I do not want to be overly effusive, nor do I want to give the impression that in some way I feel entitled.

I am not really sure where the balance lies in this matter. What is a proper attitude of gratitude? I suppose the answer would have to be the attitude that is the most real and authentic for you. I am humbled and grateful for every can of peas, every bag of pasta, every roll of toilet paper, every tea bag, every tangible expression of love and concern that has come our way. I look forward to the day that I can be the one who gives once again, and if the next recipient of my sharing is another "Sheila", I will do my darnedest to not take such offense.

Who knows? My response to some of our angels may not have been well perceived or received.

That is all.

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