Stop. Right where you are, push the pause button on your life, and look around you. Take in a big, deep belly breath and notice your surroundings. Are you warm? Comfortable? Well fed, well rested, hydrated and full of hope and inspiration? Are you safe? Are you well? Are you happy? Chances are, you are reading this post on a relatively expensive computer, or better yet, Blackberry as you cruise in your relatively expensive automobile. This is a story about gratitude. Keep that in mind as I relate the experiences of my son’s 11th birthday party.
Yesterday, I started the day like I start every one of my kids birthdays…with the story of the day they came into the world, into my arms, and into my heart. Jackson got to start his day with three things many children on this planet, even in this city do not have…a roof over his head, a meal in his stomach, and the knowledge that he is much loved.
After what I’m sure was a fun-filled day at school, a white ‘Super Stretch Limo’ pulled up in front of the elementary school for Jackson and 11 of his friends. I was banished to the front seat with the driver, and we took the kids on a scenic tour of Salt Lake City. They were in heaven, rocking out to their favorite music, drinking unlimited quantities of soda pop and hanging out the roof and the windows. What a blast for an 11 year old kid.
Before long, the soda pop kicked in and we had to make an emergency pee stop. The closest restroom we could find happened to be the McDonalds on 500 South, which happens to be on the same block as a homeless shelter. 12 kids piled out of the SSL, and barrelled into Mickey-Ds. They had to ask for tokens to get into the restrooms because apparently this is a popular place for homeless folks to come inside and warm up.
Waiting for the kids to come out, I made a few new friends. Nice, polite people with so much pain and sadness in their eyes. I can’t even begin to imagine how their day had started out, but I was pretty sure not like my son’s. The last child rushing out of the men’s restroom shouted something about “hobos” and I, still standing among my new friends, felt the crush of a simple word from the mouth of a child.
Back inside the SSL, I decided to ruin the party for a “gratitude moment”. I asked the kids the questions I asked at the beginning of this post. Silence. In that silence I thought about how many dollar hamburgers I could have bought for the price of two hours in a limo. I don’t know if they “got it” or they were just humoring me but I hope a tiny seed of gratitude took root in their young little hearts. If it did, the limo was a better investment in society than the burgers would have been.
Friends, we are the kids in the limo. Today is the party. We get to look out of our tinted windows and enjoy our music and our friends and our comforts. And while we do, let’s love and cherish, and be grateful for every priceless minute of it.