As we were driving today, I noticed an ambulance, ambulance attendants and a woman lying in the middle of a lawn downtown. I wasn’t sure if she had heat stroke, was under the influence of something or was simply suffering from a medical condition. Although I could not see her face, what I did see is that she was all alone.
It was like a shot of sadness ran through me. Even though she may not have been under the influence at all, I couldn’t help but wonder what might be going on in her life that would cause her to be in this state, in the middle of the day. I felt concerned and wondered if she had anyone who would sit with her or keep her company if she had to go to the hospital.
All of these thoughts happened in a matter of seconds, as we waited at the red light. It was a natural reaction for me to want to help, even though she was definitely in good hands. As human beings we are generally compassionate and caring, empathic and connected.
Even if this woman simply passed out from the heat of the day, it got me thinking about how life is experienced so differently for so many people. With thousands of people enjoying the parade and community events, families holding hands and spending time together this weekend, I was reminded, once again, of just how much we have to be grateful for.
My little grandson, niece and nephew, who I got to see taking in the festivities, have more people who love them than we could count in a day. They are cherished, adored, hugged, loved, kissed and held. They are read stories, nurtured, listened to and celebrated. Between them, thousands of photos of have been snapped, they have enough toys to fill a toy store and are tucked in with love, every single night.
What about those people who did not experience life this way? Are they the ones we see staggering down the street, looking like they haven’t eaten in days and looking for their next fix? Are they the ones who we see being arrested, charged and convicted of assault, domestic violence, drug offences, or otherwise?
Or does it matter how people are raised? Could it be that their loved ones have died? Could they have been bounced around in foster homes? Have they ran away from their homes and ended up mixed up in a way of life that most of us might only see in movies? Are they bitter over life circumstances which have caused them emotional or physical pain?
All I know is that the world is filled with people in all kinds of painful circumstances. What can we do when we see fellow humans who are struggling? This is a question that I often ask myself. Other than prayers, sometimes there is nothing that we can do for them.
Sometimes, when we see people who are in less than ideal life situations, what we can do is look inward and ask ourselves if we are grateful enough for what we do have. Sometimes, we can be reminded how good we do have it. Sometimes, we can be conscious enough to step outside of the issues that are causing us stress, for a brief moment and put our life circumstances into perspective.
If we are feeling overwhelmed because we are overworked, perhaps it is a reminder to feel blessed that we have a job. If we are experiencing the loss of a relationship, we can decide that we will use it as an opportunity to exercise extreme self-care and nurture ourselves through the healing process.
When we are perplexed at the randomness of how serious medical conditions happen to good people, we can feel blessed that we are healthy ourselves, so that we can be there to take care of others. When someone we love dies, we can turn our grief into a wake-up call to enjoy our lives to the fullest and refocus our attention on our loved ones who are still physically with us.
If I died tomorrow and there was one message that I would want to share with the world, it would be that we only have control over ourselves. We can never change someone else, change a circumstance or make something from the past go away. All we can do is decide how we will handle the situation from here forward.
I can say sorry, I can speak up, I can forgive, I can embrace my blessings, I can move forward, I can better myself, I can learn, I can grow, I can pray, I can reach out, I can help, I can walk away, I can use my gifts, I can enjoy my time and have fun, I can take responsibility for my actions, I can get active, I can love, I can rest, I can heal, I can have faith, I can believe, I can be abundantly grateful.
If everyone simply focused on what we actually have control over, we wouldn’t be draining our precious energy on things that we cannot change. It is only then that we can potentially inspire, motivate, empower and encourage others to do the same, by our own example.
Life’s roller coaster of ups and downs can eat away at us and make us bitter, if we let it. Will you let it?