Sometimes it is important to stop and remember just how lucky most of us are. I know I’m very lucky as I’ve been blessed with some modicum of success. My home is clean most of the time, even if it doesn’t look exactly like a magazine spread from Pottery Barn. It is a safe place, with plenty of light and plenty of other comforts such as food and soft beds. I have a pretty good idea where the next several meals are going to come from. For all of these things I am grateful.
When I was growing up, entertainment was a lot different that it is now. There was no internet. My neck of the woods did not get cable television until after I went to college. It also happens to be a place that struggles economically. It is in fact one of the worst areas in the United States to search for a job; at least according to Forbes. Despite all that, it will always be home to me, even though I am forced to make my living elsewhere. I visit when I can.
It wasn’t completely destitute. We did manage to get a grand total of three television stations (actually four if the weather was just right). However, we usually chose other ways to entertain ourselves. We told stories. Not fictional accounts, but things that really happened as best we could recall them. This tradition continues today at some point each holiday, when we all convene at my grandmother’s house.
Here’s a story that my grandmother has told many times over the years. It happened during the Great Depression. Back in those days, the family was very poor and was barely able to feed themselves. They did have one seasonal food source: cabbage. It was prepared by chopping the cabbage up and frying it with a little grease in a cast iron pan. Side items were not common, outside of a few eggs here and there. Fried cabbage was had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
During this period of cabbage abundance, one of my relatives (who was a young able-bodied fellow at the time) worked at a lumber mill. The lumber mill workers would bring their lunches in plain brown paper sacks and pile them all together until it was break time. My relative had been eating cabbage for many days and had all he could stand. One day, while walking to work, he decided that he was going to rush over to the lunch bags and make sure he picked someone else’s bag.
The lunch whistle blew and the young man rushed over to the lunch bags. He picked up several of them and chose the one that was the heaviest. Hoping that it was full of food, he ran into the woods, imagining that it might be a quart of hearty stew…anything other than cabbage.
He finally stopped running and sat down to discover his prize. He opened the bag…and saw that it contained a hammer and a few walnuts.
Somewhere, back at the mill, a very happy worker was enjoying a meal of fried cabbage.
Being grateful and content with what one has does not mean that one is devoid of ambition. It doesn’t mean that one is complacent. It’s simply the recognition that someone, somewhere else, would gladly switch places with you.