NOW Is Your Time for Gratitude: the Invisible Hands That Guide Us

Right NOW is always the right TIME to give thanks. Read on to discover how an experience in San Francisco shaped my perspective for life.

It was a crisp, foggy Saturday in downtown San Francisco. My alarm went off at a time so early, any tone it played would have been annoying. 7 AM on a Saturday.

Whhhhhy?

I rolled out of bed. If I could have taken my lump of blankets with me, I would have. I put my hair up in a bun, grabbed some comfortable clothes and brushed my teeth. I was going to the GLIDE Memorial Church to volunteer­. I had been focusing heavily on the things I didn’t have at the time. There wasn’t enough money, there wasn’t enough time off, I wasn’t enjoying making my own meals, and plenty more. I needed to snap out of it and back into a place of gratitude. Quickly. I knew there were many, many people with far less than me in the city, so I decided to simply give. After all, Francis of Assisi shared that infamous statement, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

As I rode the bus into the Tenderloin neighborhood, the stark contrast between nine-to-fivers and the city’s homeless was immediately noticeable. A line of people had already formed outside of the church, some laughing together, some somber, some in suits, some in hooded sweatshirts. Hunger doesn’t discriminate.

I had volunteered to make meals once before as an adolescent in my hometown. I remembered serving salad to a line of people whose spirits lifted as their plates filled. I had been touched with humility as I spoke with them, laughed at silly jokes and snuck second servings to whomever I could. I assumed the process would be the same here.

San Francisco would prove to be different — so different in fact, that I’d walk away with a spiritual lesson.

As I entered the church, the receptionist greeted me and directed me toward a room. I noticed I was walking in the opposite direction of the line of hungry guests. I entered the large space, lit by fluorescents and filled with metal chairs. Besides myself, there was group of Girl Scouts and a mother-and-son duo who came to help. Our first greetings were the expected soft ones — before our regular rising times or caffeine drips.

All of a sudden, a small portly man walked quickly into the room.

WELCOME EVERYONE!” he boomed.

Alarmed, and a little shocked, we all woke up!

As our team leader energized us with conversation, he led us to a large, kitchen and meeting area in the basement of the church. It was here he told us one crucial thing:

We wouldn’t see the hungry guests, and they wouldn’t see us.

I wasn’t expecting this.

I thought I’d be able to look other people in the eyes. I thought I’d be the one to say I served them. I thought I’d be in the middle of the “action” so to speak. The Universe had other plans.

We were tasked with making sandwiches. Half of them, ham. The other half, PB&J. We slowly got to know one another as we stacked ham, spread jelly, and tossed out pieces of bread that mice had enjoyed to themselves. A rhythm was being established.

One sandwich, two sandwiches, three sandwiches, four sandwiches…

Then out of the blue, like a lightening strike, awareness hit.

Here were two dozen invisible hands giving to those in need. Guests wouldn’t see us, but they’d walk into the church with nothing and walk out with food. As four sandwiches led to four hundred sandwiches, I kept pondering this, smiling to myself.

Where else could there be invisible hands guiding, inspiring and uplifting us?

Who could be guiding, inspiring and uplifting you out there and you don’t even know it?

Would your perception change if you focused on that kindness instead of the heavy, negative things thrown your way every day?

Where could you create a little more space in your mind to receive the force of good that others are giving every day?

Could a gift from a stranger change the course of your day? Your year? Your life?

The truth I became aware of in that moment is this:

Whether you think others are out there working to lift you up, or plotting to tear you down… you’re right.

Where you focus is where you take your thoughts.

Where you take your thoughts is where you take your energy.

Where your energy goes, you’re going too. (So, buckle up).

What will you choose to focus on?

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