My 15-month-old daughter caught her second flu this month, and I lost a little perspective. My husband and I had been barely two weeks free of coughing, inconsolable crying, and sleepless nights when the cycle started all over again. I worried for my child as I rocked her through the days and nights. I felt sorry for my husband, who looked as haggard as I felt. And a ball of self-pity welled up in my gut as her illness ruined our holiday plans. Why did we have to go through this again? Hadn’t we been through enough?
Then I logged into Facebook and read a few things that made me feel more thankful for my life.
The first post was from a friend of mine who does missionary work in Africa through her church. She wrote her opinion about the upcoming American elections, but not in the typical way people try to endorse one candidate or another. Instead, she told her friends to keep the election in perspective, that yes, the country has problems, but that many Americans still lead a very affluent life, even those like herself who are considered “low income.” She talked about how her sponsored girls in Africa struggle to find food and obtain even a basic education. She urged her friends to be thankful for what we have and to not let election mud-slinging wear us down.
Her post reminded me that I have access to many of life’s luxuries that make dealing with my child’s illness so much easier. I can go to a doctor whenever I want. We live in a nice house in a friendly community. I don’t worry about where my next meal is coming from or if my daughter will get a solid education. People who don’t have half of these things can (and do) find happiness every day.
The second bundle of posts came from a variety of people. I recently celebrated my birthday, and I asked my friends to post things on my wall to make me laugh. The response blew me away. So many people from all different aspects of my life– from my high school days to distant relatives to people whom I met as part of my last job – posted anecdotes, notes, and pictures from all over the world. I had a great time not only reading their posts, but responding to each person individually.
These posts reminded me of all the great people in my life, both past and present. Even though I don’t see many of my friends day-to-day, technology makes it easy to stay connected and share stories. Knowing that they took time out of their busy day to make me smile reminded me how lucky I am to have met them all. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have deep personal relationships with all of them. The fact that so many people want me in their lives, no matter how small, is an honor.
The last, and most emotional, post came from a friend who recently gave birth to premature twins, one of which passed away on his second day of life. Her other child remains in newborn intensive care and will likely stay there for several months. My friend has been quiet about the experience, understandable given the situation. When she does post, though, she has powerful things to say. Her posts can be sad, but they always contain hope. In her latest post, my friend came down with a cold so she couldn’t go the hospital and risk getting her child sick. Because of this, she missed a key milestone in her child’s life: the first time her baby fed from a bottle. My friend could have wallowed in self-pity, but instead, she’s grateful that her husband got to feed the baby and tape the event.
My friend’s courage reminded me that no matter how dire our lives become, you can always find hope. She still grieves for her loss, but she also remains grateful for what she has. She leans on others for support as she needs to, another sign of her inner strength. I can only imagine the range of emotions she wrestles with every day, and yet, she continues to post messages of hope.
We all go through difficult times in our lives. Some of them are life-changing, others can be mere annoyances. Remaining thankful for what you have through it all can make the process more bearable. That doesn’t mean I won’t feel grumpy at two in the morning when my child can’t go back to sleep. But as I hold her tight and kiss her on the forehead, I’m thankful knowing that I have such a wonderful gift in my life. I’m thankful to have family and friends, however distant, who keep my life in perspective. And I’m thankful because no matter how tough life gets, I still get this chance to live it.