We headed down the hill in a hurry. We were late. Aren’t we always? A tangle of six bodies, seat-belted into our cranberry colored minivan, pushing against the speed limit. And then I saw them, up ahead, standing together on the right side of the street. An elderly couple, waiting to cross. Cars zoomed past in both directions, and still, they waited. I stopped; I sighed, but I stopped. The white Chevy SUV coming towards me in the opposite lane, then stopped. Some mixture of surprise and joy washed over the couples faces and they crossed the street. The entire time they crossed they looked at me with huge grins on their faces and waved their right hands at me, in some universal thank you/hello.
I couldn’t help it. The joy on their faces was so contagious that I laughed out loud. My seven year old took all this in and asked me what was going on. I told her what was happening. (We had time, they were not fast walkers, my new waving friends.) But, she wanted to know, what is that look on their faces? That’s gratitude, I said. Now all my children were interested. What is gratitude, they asked. Gratitude, I told them, is when you are so thankful, that it changes your face. Ohhhh, they said, I want to have gratitude. Me too, I said.
I want to be that thankful again. Not just momentarily, but as a lifestyle. I see the opposite everywhere I go. I don’t just mean selfishness, I mean entitlement. It seems easier to catch than the stomach flu. But it stays longer and is just grosser. I don’t know if grosser is a word. But it’s a truth. Entitlement is everywhere. How often I drive down the road like a modern day Christopher Columbus, like everywhere I go belongs to me, just because I happen to be there. I reiterate everything that the drivers around me are doing wrong, out loud, like I am being paid by the Department of Licensing to give everyone a refresher course on the rules of the road. I am not. And now, my three year old has parroted this graceless behavior. “They should of yielded, right Mommy?!” She innocently asks as we run errands. “They are really selfish, right, Mommy?”
And it breaks me. I don’t have to teach my children that people are selfish, they will find that out for themselves. I should be teaching her to look for the good in people. To show mercy when people least deserve it. To lay yourself down and yield to kindness. That. That is what I meant to model for her. Those are the things that I wanted my children to see in me.
Thankfully, I still can. My poor narrative choices do not have to define me. I can do better, today. I have to. People are depending on me. I can live a life that leaves smile lines ironed onto my every expression, instead of frown lines. That is how to truly age gracefully. Today I choose to set my heart on gratitude. To be so thankful that it changes not only my face, but my attitude, my day, and my life. Maybe, I will succeed in this endeavor, and bring joy to others as I make my crossing. Or, at least, give them something to laugh about as they go their own way.