Late last week as my husband and I were taking our evening walk, we happened upon a heart wrenching scene. Right in the middle of the path lay a semi-conscious middle aged woman flanked by her two young children. The woman was on her way back home following an unsuccessful day of job hunting in a town center 40 kms away. According to the children the mother had not had anything to eat for two days and had not taken any water the whole of that day. She had collapsed from extreme dehydration.
Ironically one of the children was sipping juice from a plastic bottle and we discerned that the mother had ensured that her children had something to sustain them at the expense of her own nourishment. Together with the small crowd that had gathered, we assisted her to her feet and helped her to a nearby van whose driver had stopped to offer aid. We later learnt that the woman had recovered after being given some water and food, and the driver of the van had escorted her and her children home.
What struck me and has stayed with me since that day is how dire their situation was. How the circumstances of life could be so unfair and so unbalanced. That someone could walk such a long distance with nothing in their stomach under the merciless sun only to be turned away for lack of a job opening. That a mother has to choose her children over herself despite the fact that she still has to be strong enough to provide for their livelihood.
It’s tragic that the very thing I often take for granted – a shower, running water from my taps – could be such a precious commodity in someone else’s life to the point where it formed the delicate line between life and near death. That we live in a country where politicians are constantly coming up with more insulting ways to steal from their constituents, most of whom can barely survive from day to day let alone feed their hungry families.
The thing that hit me the hardest though was just how fortunate I am. To be born into a family that had the means to give me a decent education and my basic needs. As some would call it, the right side of the tracks. To have the necessary skills to be employed in a more than decent job with a better than average income. To have the ability to feed, clothe, educate and provide for my own children without being auctioned in the process.
It didn’t help that I had been feeling sorry for myself and imagining that the few issues I was going through were likely insurmountable. I felt ashamed and grateful at the same time, that I may not be where I wish to be; but I was nowhere near as badly off as others around me.
That encounter reminded me of the simple need of gratitude. For every small thing and every big thing that I have been blessed with. It may sound cliché but the simple act of breathing is a gift. I reminded myself that I could always choose what to focus on and this in turn would determine my outcomes.
So today, despite any challenges that I may be facing I woke up and chose to be determined. To be positive. To be creative. To be happy. To be fulfilled. The reality is that our fulfillment lies in us simply waiting to be discovered and embraced. Some of the happiest people barely have any material wealth to speak of; on the flip side some of the most miserable people are surrounded by opulence. Fulfillment is not determined by external factors. It is found in appreciating what you have, just where you are. Wherever that may be, whatever your circumstances may be.
Today I embark on a 30 day Fulfillment challenge. I want to be grateful each and every day for all the little things I have been blessed with and which I sometimes take for granted. I know that this process will go a long way in helping me to enjoy an even more fulfilled life and hopefully inspire some of you to join me!