What do you get when you combine a heavily traveled street with evening traffic, six miles of road construction, a few concrete mixers and a dump truck hauling tons of construction debris? Hopefully nothing! But sometimes “hopefully” doesn’t always come to pass. Such was my experience this weekend.
I was on my way to meet a friend for what was supposed to be a relaxing evening of dinner and chit-chat. Just your typical uneventful Saturday night. While driving through a long stretch of road construction, a dump truck pulled out in front of me hauling a jammed pack load of who-knows-what that he picked up from the work site. A few seconds later a large piece of metal flew out of the truck only to find a not so perfect landing spot on the top of my car. Actually, it hit the forward section of my sunroof.
The noise from the impact sounded like a gunshot. It was so startling I almost swerved into an oncoming car. Then I heard a creaking sound, as if something was about to collapse. Immediately, I pulled off at the nearest fuel stop to survey the damage. To my shock there was a golf-ball size hole in the glass. But that wasn’t the worst part. The impact caused a crack that went across the entire width of the glass top!
How could this happen? Why did this happen? Did this really happen? My heart sank. My blood pressure soared. My eyes teared up. My wallet began to ache. The last thing I needed was another expense. Then there’s the hassle of dealing with the insurance company, then the repair shop, then hoping they fix it properly, and so on, and so on.
I thought about cancelling dinner with my friend. I wanted to curse the Georgia Department of Transportation. I wanted to chase down the dump truck driver and make him pay. I thought about condemning myself for traveling on that particular road instead of taking a different route. But none of those options would change what happened. I had a big hole and a giant crack in my sunroof. And there was nothing I could do to change it.
Coincidentally, I had attended a ladies brunch earlier in the day. The keynote speaker gave an inspiring talk on the power of being thankful and how gratitude impacts our daily life. It’s something I’ve written about as well. And now it seemed I had been given a prime opportunity to put all those suggestions in to practice.
After inspecting my car further, I realized just how thankful I really should be. If the debris had impacted just few inches forward, it would have hit my windshield. That might have shattered the glass. It might have imploded on my lap or in my face, which might have caused an accident creating even further damage. Had the impact been a few inches towards the back, it would have hit the thinnest part of the sunroof. That might have caused the entire sunroof to collapse on top of my head. Glass could have lodged in my skull or neck or eyes or chest.
The point is that things could have been A LOT worse. So I chose to thank God for what did NOT happen. I chose to offer gratitude to the Lord for all that I did NOT experience. And that turned my entire evening around. It filled my heart with joy and happiness. It caused me to think on the goodness of God. It helped me focus on his protection and grace in spite of the circumstances.
Even though a damaged sunroof was not the desired situation, even though my “hopefully” didn’t turn out the way I was hoping, there was still plenty to be thankful and hopeful about. Of course I wasn’t happy about the damage. But there was no need to let it damage my attitude. No need to let it steal an opportunity to be grateful.
The truth is that experience provided a wonderful story to share with others. More importantly, it allowed me to choose a course for the remainder of the weekend. I chose to spend it being thankful. I chose to live with gratitude.
That decision allowed me to connect with God on a deeper level. It opened my mind to think new and creative thoughts. It flooded my heart with peace. It renewed my strength. It also brought to mind another unpleasant experience that was transformed by the power of gratitude.
In the winter of 2014 a horrible ice storm hit Atlanta, leaving several thousand commuters stranded. People spent the night in vehicles, in hotel lobbies, in grocery stores and restaurants. Unfortunately, I was one of those thousands. It took me four hours to travel 11 miles. And still did not make it home. Instead the weather forced me stop at a local coffee house and call it a day. All the roads were grid-locked. Every street was like a skating rink. There was no chance of traversing those conditions.
Sitting in the booth of the coffee house, I was tempted with anger and frustration. Then the “Should Haves and Could Haves” kicked in. Why didn’t I leave earlier? Why didn’t I work from home? Why didn’t I just stay at the office? Right in the middle of my spiraling thoughts, two ladies walked in and asked if they could sit in the booth with me. “Of course,” I replied. “Looks like we’re all going to be here for a long while anyway.”
Nice people, nice conversation, warm place to hang out, plenty of food and good coffee. Yet the thought of spending 12 to 14 hours in a coffee house put a sick feeling in my stomach. Again, I had a decision to make. I could let it irritate me and put me in a foul mood…. OR I could make a different choice.
So I asked God for divine grace to embrace my circumstances. I’m a classic “Type A” personality. The worst thing on earth is to put me in a situation with no Plan B. But that’s where I found myself… stuck with a lot of other Type As who were also stuck with no Plan B. I needed divine intervention to help me do what I could not do in my own strength.
Next, I asked for a spirit of thanksgiving. Showing gratitude was the only way I would be able to survive the next several hours without losing my mind. I started thanking God for a warm and safe place to stay. I thanked him for the opportunity to meet new people and drink great coffee. I thanked him that my car was in a nice parking lot and not in a ditch. I thanked him for clean facilities, for decent food, for a warm coat and comfortable clothing.
Pretty soon I found myself chatting and laughing with my new friends. I discovered they were both strong Christian women who were also asking God for the ability to be thankful. Although the situation was not our ideal, God had put us together to encourage each other with his love and goodness.
Before I knew it a couple of hours had passed by. Glancing towards the window, I saw a shuttle-van pull in the parking lot. It was from an Assisted Living facility just one block from the coffee house. “What are the chances?” I thought. So I called the number. “My friends and I are stranded at the coffee house just up the street. But I’m happy to pay you the same as a hotel,” I explained. “Don’t worry about it,” the lady replied. “You and your friends come on over. We would be happy to put you up for the night.”
That evening my new friends and I slept on cushy sofas and comfortable recliners right in front of a cozy fire-place. We enjoyed the equivalent of a 5-Star hotel totally FREE of charge. We had more good food, more nice people, plus blankets and pillows and anything else we needed. The facility director even brought us Pillow Chocolates!
They treated us like VIPs. What started out in disaster ended with kisses from heaven…chocolate ones at that! And I’d like to think it had a little something to do with a willingness to be thankful.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a lot of talks on the necessity of gratitude – the physical, psychological and emotional benefits of being thankful. In fact, in my August 2015 blog, I highlight how gratitude is a key component of success.
But every now and then, I think it’s a good idea to just talk about real life in-the-trenches stuff. Sometimes we just need to share how gratitude makes a difference in the day to day, without getting too scientific about it. Don’t’ misunderstand. I fully subscribe to the scientific and spiritual findings. After all, the proof is in the pudding!
And speaking of food… while I was writing this blog I forgot that I had put some eggs on the stove to boil. I think the recommended cook time is 7 minutes? But I just noticed an unusual aroma from the kitchen. Good grief! The boiled eggs! Has it really been 20 minutes. Hold on. I’ll be right back…
Well, I just went downstairs to check on the eggs… They’re cooked alright! And yet I found something to be thankful for. Apparently when you boil an egg for 20 minutes, the shell separates from it….completely. So even if they are a little “well done,” at least I won’t have to peel them! Oh… and one more thing… I’m also VERY thankful I don’t have to cook for a living!
In case you want to read a few scriptures on the benefits of being thankful, here is a list to get you started.
- Psalm 50:23
- Psalm 95:2
- Psalm 100:4
- Psalm 147:7
- Jeremiah 33:11
- 1 Corinthians 1:4
- 2 Corinthians 4:15
- 2 Corinthians 9:11
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Ephesians 5:4
- Philippians 4:6
- Colossians 2:7
- Colossians 4:2
- 1 Timothy 4:4
You might also enjoy this lovely YouTube video. It speaks volumes on the subject of gratitude! youtube.com/watch?v=2egMSliB8DE&feature=youtu.be
Have a blessed and Thankful day!