I’ve just completed leadership training with Simple Abundance author Sarah Ban Breathnach. During our incredibly moving and wonderful weekend we studied the Graces which are the basis for the book’s philosophy: Gratitude, Simplicity, Order, Harmony, Beauty and Joy. I’d like to share something I wrote about Gratitude this week…
A French proverb tells us that “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”
I am grateful for the first person who ever honestly, inexplicably and amazingly believed in my talent/gift/ability to write. How did she know? I am convinced she knew because she saw inside my soul. “I can’t wait to read your book,” she had said to me. Her tone held encouragement, admiration and confidence. She spoke with such faith of my dreams as reality and a foregone conclusion.
It was the end of October 1983. My father had just passed away and I was on a personal retreat at a small convent. There was a communal kitchen with huge loaves of brown bread and enormous jars of peanut butter, a six-slice toaster and refrigerator with a few apples and the pint of Half & Half I’d brought for my tea. On the other side of the room opposite the Formica table and eight chairs was a saggy dark green couch with a stripped orange and brown afghan adorning the back cushions. The blanket, no doubt, was a donation from the Ladies Circle. The best part about the sofa was that is was positioned in front of a large brick fireplace with an ample supply of wood.
I sat on one end of the couch watching the flames dance up the chimney. She sat on the other end; her plump sausage fingers buried in a wootle of baby blue yarn while the long silver knitting needles fenced at her direction. Her Clairol enhanced hair was pulled into a loose bun on the top of her head. She had a yellow No. 2 pencil stuck in it, a habit she’d picked up from work. I can still see her bent down and digging in a brown grocery bag looking for a ball of bright blue yarn to introduce to the dance her fingers were choreographing.
I exchanged a pleasant hello, but turned to stare into the flames and hoped I wouldn’t have to start a conversation. She chatted without provocation about her life, only pausing once in a while to allow me to answer a cursory amount. I told her more than I’d realized when I left to go. She was a cook at Woolworth’s lunch counter she told me and this was her annual vacation from her husband and five children. Usually she was at work in her white shoes and apron with black polyester dress at 7 am Monday thru Friday and 5 am on Sat and Sunday. But it was her birthday and she was treating herself. She talked about baking apple pies because this was apple harvest time. I said my favorite and dad’s was the French Apple my mother made. But I didn’t know when she’d feel like making it since he was gone. I talked aoubt how I was going to school and would graduate next June. How we were on a waiting list for a baby. How I wanted to be a writer. How I longed to write something people would want to read. And she kept knitting and listening.
I got up to go to my room, my cell really; collect my PJ’s. Then go down the hall to the shared bathroom to take a long soak and have a good cry. She looked up from her half finished scarf and fixed her tender dark brown eyes on me and her words washed over me, “I’m looking forward to reading your book.” I have to honor that faith—