Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Just be thankful

19th November 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis
The Louisiana Weekly Editor

Have you ever met someone who seems to have no joy in his or her heart, no hope to hold onto and no love to give? This is truly one of the saddest sights you will ever see. Most of us have known people whose bad habits and harsh words cut us like knives at one time or another, but when we come face to face with someone who has no light in his or her eyes, no bounce in his step and no apparent reason to wake up every morning, it kind of takes the wind out of our sails.

I thought about this a while back as I visited with an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years. Michelle and I met in college, used to hang out and even took a couple of English classes together, but she never struck me as a person who was truly happy about anything. As far back as I can remember, there she was, walking around with a “boot” in her mouth. Michelle seemed to take every opportunity to frown and accentuate the negative. I never understood why she was so unhappy.

I tried to get her to talk about it maybe a dozen or so times, but she always resisted, preferring instead to sidestep the issue with some debate or discussion about something neither one of us really cared about. After a while, I reluctantly gave up and accepted the fact that that was just who Michelle was and that nothing I could say or do was going to change her outlook and attitude unless she wanted to do so.

Years later, I found out that Michelle was from a small town and was forced by her mother to abort a pregnancy while still a high school student in order to improve her chances for a successful life. It seems she never really forgave her mother — or herself, for that matter — for extinguishing the life of this innocent little being that was growing inside of her.

Once I learned of what she had to endure, it definitely made it easier to understand and appreciate her attitude during our college years. Still, I secretly hoped and prayed that she would somehow find the strength and grace to move beyond what had happened to her. I never introduced the subject on the few occasions that we did run into each other, but I always hoped and prayed that the Creator would give her peace of mind and help her to find a quiet place inside of her where she could find refuge and rest.

Those prayers were answered eventually when she phoned me and told me she was happily married and living in Dallas, Texas. I breathed a sigh of relief, not knowing what to say to her beyond offering her my best wishes and congratulations. But she had more to tell me.

Michelle took a deep breath before apologizing for all the stress, drama and madness she had caused me and others by her constant moping and griping about anything and everything. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had no idea she had noticed how her moods and ‘tudes often brought those of us who spent time with her down, but she apparently knew on some level how her pain and anguish were affecting us. And she said she didn’t want to go another day without letting me and the others she considered her friends in college know how sorry she was.

She had no idea what her words meant to me, but the more she spoke, the lighter my spirit felt and the more I realized how all of us are connected spiritually, whether we realize it or not.

Even though I was able to temporarily brush aside my concerns about her plight and where she might end up, I never really stopped worrying about Michelle and how she was doing. When she called to let me know she was okay, I wanted to do a backflip and jump and shout. But I restrained myself and told her how her happiness made me happy and washed away all the pain and negativity that had accumulated over the years. It was like we were new and looking out on a brave new world.

Before hanging up, she let me talk to her husband and get to know him a little bit. She also told me that she’s an expectant mother and couldn’t be happier about the prospects of finally becoming a mother. She was finally able to put what had happened behind her, though she would always wonder about what might have been if she had been allowed to keep her first child. She doesn’t know it, but she made my day.

You see, the day she called me was just one of them days. You know, the kind where everything that can go wrong seems to go wrong and no matter what you do you seem to be walking across a field of quicksand and sinking deeper with every step. Talking to Michelle that fateful day changed all of that.

She reminded me how important it is to have people in our lives that we can lean on and talk to from time to time as well as how easy it is for us to forget how blessed we are.

Though it’s sometimes difficult to see, all of us have something for which to be grateful. All of have something to live for, a reason to get up each morning and thank the Great Spirit, but sometimes we are blinded by our despair, frustration and sense of futility. It may seem to us sometimes that no matter what we do, we can’t win. We somehow forget that we have already won. All we have to do is hang in the game long enough to collect our celestial rewards.

There was a line from the film Soul Food that struck a chord with me where Big Mama, the matriarch of the family, told her grandson that if family members don’t stick together through the bad times, they wouldn’t be around to celebrate the good times. True indeed, but I’ll take it one step further. If we don’t hang in there and find a way to endure the rocky spots in our lives, we won’t be in any kind of shape to appreciate the many blessings that come our way. If we don’t get a handle on the bad things that happen to all of us, eventually we’ll end up bitter and drowning in a sea of hopelessness.

No cross, no crown.

How do we avoid such a cruel fate? By celebrating every joyful event and blessing that comes into our lives, no matter how small or ordinary it may seem at the time, and sharing that joy with others. People respond to individuals whose lives emanate joy, hope and positivity. This kind of attitude is contagious and has a way of taking on a life of its own once it is allowed to take root in our spirits.

At the same time, we need to be patient with those who have lost their way and have somehow forgotten how to tap into the joy in their lives. And we must also remember that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Harambee. Hotep. Nkosinathi.

This article originally published in the November 19, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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