There are many ways of saying thanks; a smile, a kind word, helping an elderly lady tote her groceries out to the car, and so on. And there’s also the thanks in an inward way – of appreciating what you have and have achieved in spite of the hurdles. My friend Brian reminded me that it’s been six years since he bought his house in a historic neighborhood in Albuquerque, and I remembered that back on Thanksgiving 2004 he had shared with me the journey that got him there.
A year ago today at two in the afternoon, I met Laura, the realtor, at the title company, and we closed on the house. Laura had forgotten the key, so after the closing she drove back to her office to pick it up, and I headed down to the house. I remember standing on the porch waiting for her thinking “I can’t believe it’s mine.” When she showed up she opened the door, said “Here you go!” and handed me the key. “Go in, walk around, get used to the idea,” she said, and after adding if I had any questions or needed anything, etc, she drove off. I remember wandering through there in the late afternoon light, opening closet doors and cabinets, getting out the tape measure and trying to figure what would go where and how it would look. And I remember thinking “I can’t believe I pulled this off.” Three years earlier I was unemployed and down to my last couple of hundred dollars. When I did get a job it was for a whopping ten bucks an hour, and I spent the next year playing catch up on the bills, floating checks and robbing Peter to pay Paul.
As I stood there in the living room, looking out across the porch to the street, I realized once again the power of determination. Twenty plus years before when I decided to become a paramedic, everyone said “You’ll never do it.” Everyone except my mom, and I think she was just programmed to be encouraging…I don’t think she really believed it either. For two years I worked like a dog, 56-hour weeks at the ambulance company, 16 hours a week in the classroom, and 24 in clinical settings, and I did it. I aced the final and the state exam, and I got the job I wanted with what was then Broward EMS. Twelve years later, stuck in the depths of depression, I decided I was sick of living that way and was going to change it…and I did. I found the right guy, followed his advice, stuck with it, and came out of the experience a completely different person, and better for it. And then in the last few years I went from unemployed, broke, and discouraged to having a decent job and owning a house – admittedly a small house – but a place I can call my own, and do with as I please. Everyone said “On your salary? Get real!” but I looked around, read up on what was out there, researched the market, went into it with realistic expectations, and found the best deal for me.
So the question now is…where do I focus that energy next? And what will come of it when I do? I’m not sure, but I do know I’m going to enjoy discovering the answers!
This is a holiday that is different. It’s not a commemoration of an event, like the Fourth of July, nor does it honor a specific group, like Memorial Day, nor does it honor a person. We’ve come up with the Pilgrims and the big dinner, I think, in order to attach a foundation to it (and sell a lot of food…again with the food), but in reality it’s a time of reflection to look back over the year and realize that for all the worries and struggles we have, that it’s important, like Brian says, to look at how blessed – in all senses of the word – we are and pause long enough to appreciate it.
If I started making a list of the things I am grateful for, it would get long and probably a touch maudlin. So let me just say thanks out loud here…and I hope you, Dear Reader, share my thoughts and best wishes.