Sunday, January 1, 2017

Attitude & Perspective in Allegory

One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, 
read a good poem, see a fine picture 
and if it were possible,
to speak a few reasonable words.
~ Goethe

She said she thought it was her own secret weapon, revealed to her more than two decades ago. A smile danced across her face as she asked how in the world I, a stranger, knew her secret! She didn’t think anyone else knew about it.

I’m a checker in a local convenience store. As usual on a Tuesday afternoon, business slowed down to a trickle. There were no customers in the store, so when the woman walked in I looked up long enough to catch her eye—we nodded and smiled, then she went on her way, eventually walking down two of our three aisles.

She walked up to the register with four items in her arms—a gallon of milk, some kitchen cleanser, a package of cookies and a can of peaches.

The woman’s smile was broad and bright as we exchanged pleasantries. I asked her how her day was going and she replied “It's a good day!” I told her that’s just how I felt that day, and in fact, I said I begin each day by saying, “‘…this is a really good day.’ Not, it might be, not it will be, but it IS, in the here and now.”

The startled look on the woman’s face stopped me right then and there. She put the last item on the counter and as she looked up at me again I saw tears in her eyes.

I indicated the cashier’s stool near the end of my station and invited her to sit down.
She assured me the tears in her eyes were not from sadness—though I had the distinct impression life had dealt her some painful blows. She very lightly touched upon the fact that in her younger days she unwittingly developed the habit of putting energy and thought into what she saw as her life's problems—problems inside herself, and problems with others became magnified, grew out of control.  

Two decades ago one single instance completely changed her attitude; changed how she views life's vagaries.

On that particular day she awoke feeling surprisingly peaceful. Without even realizing it, the words, “this is a good day” ran through her mind. And, lo and behold! It was a good day, from beginning to end. Issues from the days or weeks before, which seemed to present insurmountable problems, simply smoothed themselves out.  

Those are the words which have helped her live the last 20 years of her life with abiding joy. Every morning, through all these years, she repeats five or six times what she calls her mantra, her meditation and her affirmation: “This IS a good day!”

Throughout the day she often dwells on how grateful she is for her mostly good health, the roof over her head and the people in her life who care about her. She assured me she is no Pollyanna; she knows the world is full of strife and pain. Her way is to find the good and focus on that; she tries to set a good example and not only believes in the ripple effect, she has seen it at work.

She chuckled a bit, saying she “experiments” once in a while and thinks to herself: “this sure is a lousy day,” although after an hour or two when everything imaginable seems to go awry, she reneges and replaces the negative thought with a positive one. 

I finished ringing up her purchases and put them in the cloth bag she brought with her.
We continued to talk for a few more minutes. I told her I had been using my secret phrase since the time eight years ago when I made the decision to turn my life around. 

She didn’t pry but continued to look at me with calm and patient understanding. She made it very easy for me to tell her, albeit briefly, about my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, about my search for inner peace and my re-connection with my wife and children. It's not always easy for a guy to open up this way. I ended by telling her, “Today and all of my days since then, continue to be very good days! I guess it's true: thinking makes it so.”

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
~ Plato

The swinging door of the store opened just then and a man of about 45 walked through. There were grease stains on his khaki work uniform, his steel-toe boots were scuffed and dusty—the man appeared tired and worn down by life.

As he passed the cash register, obviously on his way to the beer cooler, he glanced at the woman on the stool. She nodded and smiled very slightly at the man and as she did, it seemed some burden lifted from his shoulders; his eyes brightened and a slight smile played on his whisker-stubbled, dirt-smudged face.

The woman turned back to me and with the same sweet smile lighting her eyes, she bade me good day.

Did I forget to say she was about 80 years of age and walked with an obviously painful gait? Oh, and did I tell you she timidly, almost apologetically, offered food stamps to pay for her purchases?

The woman in the tattered jacket and soiled old sneakers had the most serene, kind, open and honest face I’ve ever seen. She literally glowed with love, understanding and compassion. Pass it on and remember:

The richest person is not the one who has the most
but the one who needs the least.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post and a great story. We have much to learn from the people around us.