Friday, May 01, 2009

prosperity


The welfare office is a strange place to learn about prosperity. But, as I pushed through the myriad of emotions this week trying to keep my focus on wrapping up the many tasks I had to complete before the lights went out on this job, I became more and more cognizant of the fact that this is exactly what i've learned. I also was thinking that due to the global economic circumstances, many are looking at what prosperity really means. Hey! Perhaps this is where they need to hang out.....

We all easily get swooped up in the tide awash with the materialistic side of the equation, when in reality what matters are the simple gifts unattached to any price tag. Not that simple gifts come easy. They do if you recognize them for what they are, or if you realize you're resting beside one waiting to be smiled at. Realistically, nothing ever comes easy, not even the simple gifts. There are many adverse life lessons one has to encounter and to process before this awareness of prosperity shines a different light.....before we earn the vision of seeing the abundance of a simple gift.

I had a short conversation this week with a man from Bosnia who settled in my town a few years back with his family after having to flee his home country. I know much of his story from a mutual friend, but had never had the opportunity to meet him. Our mutual friend explained to the man that I was losing my job and moving onto another that didn't have much security etc. The Bosnian man, who was very outgoing and expressive....said..... "Never forget that life can be much worse. You are in big trouble if you accept the fact that what you are going through is the worst it could be. Believe me, it could be much worse. If I ever accept that it can't get any worse, I am defeated and I can't go anywhere from there." His words will continue to ring inside....

Last summer, my blogger friend Charles and I helped a woman who was in dire need. It was emotionally heartbreaking and satisfying to be able to offer her a bit of help and she was so grateful you just wanted to do more for her. Afterwards, when we got back in the van while I tried to pull myself together again, both of us overwhelmed by the intensity of it all, Charles said....."You know whenever i feel like I've hit bottom and things can't get any worse, I meet a person who is worse off than me. We did good here today." His words continue to ring inside......

I spoke with a man on the phone this week.....I hadn't talked to him in several years. I first met him 10 years ago when he was applying for a disability pension because of his poor health. We met in his little home in the woods and talked for a couple of hours about his struggles, and his frequent hospitalizations. What was loud and clear to me then was how settled and grateful he was to have his own home, his own sanctuary despite its bare bones feel.

6 years ago, he called me to ask if i would help him find a way to learn how to read. We decided the best approach would be through a tutor and not in a classroom. He wasn't able to commit to that kind of structure because of his health. So, it was arranged quickly on my end and that was that. I never heard how it went, or if he was successful.....until we connected again this week. He called to ask me if I would go to bat for him to try to get gas money to travel to and from his tutoring lessons. He drives 45 km one way twice a week to meet with another man who has been teaching how to read for the past 6 years. I had no idea! When I asked him how well his reading was coming along......he proudly informed me that he can read well enough to understand instructions and letters that come in the mail, and that he's able to read some of the words in the books his Dad left him...."not the big words, mind you....can't read the big words yet."

Will this man ever be financially self sufficient? Will he ever be able to read a novel? Will he ever be able to overcome his kidney ailments? As much as he yearns to get a job, he will never be able to work. If he could just have a bit of gas money....he would feel that he can continue to chip away at his goal of becoming literate. This would make him feel prosperous....

The conversation continues to ring inside.

How do we define prosperity.....? It depends on where we are sitting. It depends on what we have learned, and what we value. In these topsy turvy times when many are being forced to strip down, pare down, and heaven forbid do without.....we are pushed into situations where adversity challenges unrelentingly, offering big important lessons. This collective world in which we live....this big global community may just learn a few good lessons that have the capacity to shift how we define prosperity. I recommend a visit to the welfare office.
Prosperity means abundance. Abundance is measured by our value gauge. What is important to us, what we are willing to push through adversity to acquire. Money most definately plays a role, as does good health, but it isn't the answer to prosperity. Stuff accumulated isn't the answer to feeling prosperous. Pushing through adversity while learning through recognizing the signposts along the way is the road to prosperity.....the riches lie there. So does having people to engage and connect with. So does being affirmed, having someone express to you that you matter....feeling significant....knowing you are heard, and recognized you are a human being just like everyone else. These are the golden touches which bring forth the feeling of prosperity. We may be penniless and suffering, and yet we can all feel prosperous.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of sitting in a hospital room with a young man who was dying of Crohn's disease. I was shocked initially at how skeletal he was....how different he looked, and how unbelievably sick he was since I had first met him a few years back. His energy was very low. His lips parched and dry because he was receiving all his nutrients and food sustenance through a tube in his stomach. He was too weak to digest it any other way. He had been in the hospital for 4 months already and has suffered through 3 painful surgeries. He admitted that he didn't know if he had the strength to go through another.....

At first, I didn't know if he could physically handle my visit, but I was there to help him get some extra money by applying for a disability. So, he had saved his strength and greeted me with as much energy as he could conjure up. This man had previously studied to be a preacher, and was able to run a parish church in a rural area in Northern New Brunswick until he fell too ill to lead. But, his faith and his way of looking at the world were still very much intact, and this is where our conversation led.

He spoke of the kindness of the hospital staff......how they arranged for a private room for him even though he didn't necessarily qualify. He lit up when he talked about his best friend, who had been visiting when I arrived and praying quietly with him....how they had studied together to be preachers....how they used to go fishing together. He talked about how blessed he is to have three children whom he loves dearly and feels so upset that he probably won't be around to see them grow up to be adults. He pointed out the flowers that arrived yesterday in the middle of a snowstorm....how his grandmother always comes to visit and that she has been the constant person in his life. He lamented on how much he misses the ulimate freedom of going for a drive into the country all by yourself. And as he reflected....as this man with such poor health, and with no money reflected....he told me how rich he was in so many ways.

2 hours later, I left his hospital room far richer too than I had been when I arrived. I left with the sound of a church bell ringing inside...faith encapsulates the blessings layered in a river of prosperity.

Henri Nouwen writes about people and compares us to mosaic stones. Each one of us is represented by a tiny piece of colour, beautiful on its own, but much more revealing of the face of God when seen as a design together. Our community lives and breathes suffering and struggle. It lives and breathes love and compassion. It displays the faces of humanity, shaded by the lined scars of adversity....and a longing for connection and validation between human beings. Community, he writes, is "where humility and glory touch." And to me, that is where prosperity dwells. You see it abundantly in the welfare office. It is an integral part of our community, sometimes considered on the fringes of the busy work districts, but most definately integral in the whole of our society. We see humility and glory touching daily here.

This place and the people i've met, the colleagues I grown up with and love and have had the privilege to walk a mile or two with will continue to ring on inside me forever. On this my last day of work there, I leave a very rich woman indeed, with an overflowing market basket of simple gifts.
Priceless......

11 comments:

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

i guess prosperity is
whatever makes us feel full?

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

(love the colours!)

Carmi said...

My grandfather always told me the story of a seemingly impoverished man who had no shoes. Whenever he met others of greater means, they almost without fail would comment on his lack of footwear.

His response: "I used to feel despair because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet."

My zaydie taught me that perspective is an amazingly powerful gift - especially when you're privileged enough to learn about it from someone you love so much. I've got to believe that when the world goes through times of challenge, we're given the opportunity to appreciate what this really means.

In many respects, it's become a cornerstone of my life, and a necessary part of my own survival instinct.

Awareness said...

Carmi....I love what you've written and shared here. thank you. I had your zaydie's words of wisdom in my thoughts this morning when I wrote this and almost used them.
Perspective and our choice of how we utilize it makes all the difference. WE do have an opportunity to "right" a few wrongs in our materialistic society, in our "me, me, all about me" mentality we continue to hold onto all because of the times we are living through.

There are good leaders out there espousing the same....let us surround them with our support and help make a significant shift.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

You are a most unusual person Dana...So filled with a love and understanding of life in ALL it's various aspects---This last story of the man dying of Crohn's...Oh My Dear! That you come away from each of these encounters feeling uplifted and feeling that YOU have gained more than you gave, is the miracle of who YOU Are, my dear Dana....
Beautiful post.
And very sad that the work and love you have given to this job and to the people you have encountered, is coming to an end.

Gilly said...

With your amazing empathy with people, and a set of values that so many people would not even recognize, Dana, you will still be able to fulfill your real job in life.

(Hope that makes sense - nearly lost my way there!)

That is a wonderful post. I feel better for ereading it.

And what the MuddledMarketPlace said, as well!

Brother David said...

Grassroots stuff; this is our life blood. Everything else is just hot air. Welcome to the millionaire club.
Keep going girl.

Awareness said...

Hi Naomi... Personally I feel it is the only way to cope with the intensity of the moment...I have to take the time to reflect on it and register the impact or i would totally burn out. I don't know whether i would describe how I felt as uplifted in the sense that i was feeling buoyant. I think it was a more a sense of being touched deeply by his spirit and by how he was managing and not knowing if I could ever find that inner ability to cope as well. The gift I left with was in seeing how he really was applying is faith in his suffering.

Gilly...thank you for your lovely compliment. I try.

David....It is where I seem to always gravitate to. I have left on occasion...gone away from the grassroots and have never been able to stay away too long. I never knew why for a long time what it was and then something seemed to click inside me about 5 years ago....around the same time that religion re-entered my heart and head....oooooo....and my writing too. :) My perspective most definately shifted in a very big "aha" moment.
The journey continues....I'm so glad you're along for the walk.

daringtowrite said...

A priceless post, too. Such a reminder of what really matters.

Awareness said...

daring....writing it helped me with that realization.

Gypsy said...

Dana I know your life has been enriched by the gifts these people have given you with their experiences and their stories but never fear, I'm sure the rewards have been reciprocated amny times over. Those people to whom life hasn't been so kind will really miss you and I cannot imagine them being fortunate enough to encounter anyone again with the same amount of compassion and understanding that you have shown. More's the pity I reckon.