29 December 2010

What I Learned in 2010

1.       Forgiveness heals. Forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness is hard, but can be done.

My dad and I made amends after 6 years of an estranged relationship. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, and it is also one of the things that has made me the happiest.  Mom always said I needed to find forgiveness and I always laughed thinking she was just saying those silly things that moms do.  She was so right.

2.       We don’t realize how blessed we are until we see life from someone else’s shoes.

     Ellie loves to wear sandals, and when cold weather set in, she was upset that she
wasn’t allowed to wear them anymore.  On a cold November Saturday, she and I were at a fabric store when a refugee walked in wearing a long, thin skirt and sandals. 

“Mommy! Why does that lady get to wear flip flops?”

“She doesn’t get to wear them, Ellie. Her feet are probably cold. She doesn’t have enough money to buy warm shoes.”
A few weeks later we went through our closets and pulled out all the old sweaters, wool coats, and shoes that were in good condition. Ellie and I took them to the local refugee office and donated them.  There were items that had never been worn, or had only been worn once or twice. I felt embarrassed and ungrateful.  How privileged we (as Americans) are to have all that we do without even realizing it. 

Not only are we blessed with the means to buy warm clothes, we have lived in a stable country. These refugees have been displaced from their homes, families, towns, everything they once knew and loved. Imagine leaving your home behind, your photos, your memories, your identity and going to a foreign place. Imagine your town being ravaged by war and wondering if your sisters or brothers were killed.  Shoes and warm clothes are probably the last things on their minds.

3.       The simple things are what make life beautiful.

I used to worry a lot. I still do. I worry about how clean my house is or how much homework I have, about the eternal questions of life and mortality, about the best way to instill compassion and goodness in a child. I worry about the perils of growing older, and of watching those I love grow old. I worry about doing the right thing at the right moment and if I do, whether or not I will know it and whether or not it will matter.

Something happened to me in September, something that shook my life in ways that I never knew. Without too many details, I had some health problems that I still struggle with daily. This forced me to adjust how I was taking care of myself. I realized that worrying so much adds needless stress to my life.

Focusing on life’s simple gifts has helped me ease my worries. When I hear a beautiful song, I stop to listen. When the moon and stars are clear and perfect, I look at them. When it rains I pay attention the sound of each drop on the roof.  I relax with a book more often now and snuggle with my family more.  Little hands grasping flowers, the laughter of Ellie when we play games, the way my husband smells when I hug him after a long day.  Focusing on the little things has helped me slow down.  This calmness brings joy and comfort. I still get stressed out (who doesn’t?) but I feel better and am happier.

Like most years, 2010 was a blend of difficult and joyful moments.  I learned, I grew, and I still have so many blessings.  That's all I'm wishing for 2011. 

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