Friday, December 4, 2009

A Change in Perspective

Today I took the kids to the library to get new books for the weekend. The weather was cold and overcast, and the parking lot was extremely full--not your average Friday afternoon library crowd, which is usually around two cars, max. As we hurried inside the lobby, I noticed that there were people everywhere, in three separate lines, snaking around the room, through the entryway, and starting to spill outside into the cold. They were all in line for the City of Suffolk Treasury offices, and I quickly realized that it was because today was the deadline to pay your personal property taxes. My first thought was, "Thank goodness I don't have to stand in that line! That would take forever." I had send our payment through the mail almost as soon as it arrived last month.

As we wove our way through the crowd, I noticed that while there were many people who looked stressed and harried, there were also a few people waiting, one black woman in particular, who looked perfectly content to be spending her Friday afternoon in a never-ending line. She was probably twenty people from the front, with a long wait in front of her, and had probably been waiting a very long time already. But by the look on her face, she didn't seem to mind at all.

Seeing her face, I wondered what she was so happy about. There was no way in hell I would look so zen while standing in that throng of people. And then I had a realization, almost like a tap on my shoulder, a shot to my brain--My Dad would have looked the same way. If my Dad had been standing in that God-awful line and I had complained about how long it was taking, he would have told me exactly this, smiling all the while: "I'm just happy to be standing in line, Princess. Because if I'm standing here in this line, that means I have the money to pay the taxes I owe. Lots of people don't have that." And that's absolutely true.

This time of year, everyone is strapped for cash it seems, and with the economy in the shape that it is, things are tighter than usual all around. Even though we aren't rich by any means, I never had to wonder for a moment where that money was going to come from when our tax bill arrived. It's easy to forget with a life like mine that so many people DO have to worry about that, that some people have been up at night wondering how they are going to pay their mortgage, or provide food for their families, or give their kids anything for Christmas. I have had to worry about those things in years past, but not for a very long time. Which reminds me that despite all the pain and loss and heartache of this year, I'm still a very fortunate girl. And being fortunate doesn't just include the material things in this world, even the necessities, but also includes the fact that I had this amazing Dad who lived his life in a way that taught me so much and can continue to teach me, if only I keep the memories of him alive.

So from now on even though I'm sad and I'm tired and I'm desperately missing my Dad, I want to try to emulate him a little more. I want to step back from situations that seem hopeless or frustrating and try to consider how he would have looked at them. I want to be thankful each morning when I wake up. Because no matter how bad things got, there wasn't one minute of his life that my Dad wasn't grateful just to be alive. And that's how I want to live my life--making him proud, for him, my kids, and myself.

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