A few months ago I ran into someone I had known more than a decade ago. We were acquaintances – brought together by mutual participation in a community group.
This person was a respected professional and genuinely nice person. They lived in a beautiful home in the swanky end of town, and while they were not ostentatious; it was clear they were quite comfortable (financially) and by all external appearances – at the top of their game socially.
While I was raised not to be envious, there were times – usually when my life was overwhelming to the point of exhaustion – that I looked at them and wondered what I had done “wrong“. They really seemed to have life figured out in all the ways that I seemed to be bungling.
Not long ago, I bumped into them unexpectedly when I stopped by a local long term care facility for business. This person is living full-time in the facility, debilitated by late-stage Parkinson’s disease. They are unable to move on their own, or speak, and from what I know about Parkinson’s from a healthcare perspective, I suspect they need assistance with all activities of daily living (eating, dressing, toileting).
The evening that I encountered them I was rocked to my core because at one time, they represented all that I was not, or so it seemed. All those years ago they were the living breathing example of any number of my desires and goals, but here I was in the present day feeling alternatively grateful and guilty.
I was never so thankful to walk from my driveway, across my yard and to my front door as I was when I returned home; never so appreciative of the inconveniences of my older home as I easily ran up and down multiple flights of stairs, and used heavy, cumbersome and outdated appliances. I felt a mixture of conflicting emotions as I remembered how much, at one time, I had wanted what they had. Not to their detriment; I just wanted (a la When Harry Met Sally), “…what [they were] having“. And now I was breathlessly feeling so very thankful that I did not.
I do not believe that the Universe sets up “you had this, so you must endure that” scenarios. I do think that we are provided with many opportunities to see the truth about the great abundance that already exists in our lives and that we may be missing as we survey our circumstances and pronounce them lacking.
Good health, mobility, living independently: there is no amount of money that I would accept to give up these aspects of my life. And yet, how often do I miss the great blessings present in every moment as I enjoy these characteristics (and more) in my day-to-day?
Money has a powerful hold over us – especially those of us living in Western cultures. A lack of money can be debilitating and demoralizing. We see powerful people with endless resources celebrated in the media and all across American society, and yet – this chance encounter reminded me that money doesn’t mean much when freedom, health and independence are gone.
I am much more appreciative of my life since stumbling upon this person’s situation. I look at the things in my life and I bless them, express gratitude for them and feel the positive good I receive from them. On the outside, they might not look like much: but I am blessed beyond words, and I make sure to remember this on those days when I’m feeling less than or blue.
We never know when a profound truth will cross our path. We never know what form it will take. I have great compassion for this person and their family and wish them the best. And I am so very grateful for the life lesson they unknowingly taught me that day.
(C) 2017 Practitioners' Path