As someone who can often get bogged down in the sadness and negativity of the world, it takes effort to really pull out the good stuff and sit with that for a while. It's sometimes easy to mock the #soblessed mentality that seems pervasive on social media, but I think there is merit to focusing on the good, to offering thanks and to appreciating that, as the Buddha says, "Enough is a feast." To that end, I'll blog each Sunday about the good, the positive, the (dare I say) bounty.
With that....here is how a Pakistani young man totally schooled me in humility, gratitude and seeing the cup as not only half-full but downright runneth-over........
As many of you know, I work in a writing center at a local community college teaching writing. I love this job for many reasons, most of which I will likely write about on this blog at some point. Two days ago, I had a session with a student that left me so humbled, grateful and awestruck I've been thinking about it all weekend.
Last week, a student needed help editing some simple written assignments, no more than a few paragraphs. As I began editing his work, we naturally talked about what he'd written. For one of the assignments, he'd written about how he'd been promoted recently at work. He works at McDonalds. As I noted comma splices and punctuation, he told me his story. He told me he came to America two-and-a-half years ago, and he didn't speak a word of English. He said he had no idea how he'd get a job without language skills, but he applied for work at McDonalds as a dishwasher. He said he was so happy and shocked when they called him for an interview. He got the job that day. He said, "I felt very proud."
After a few months, another employee called in sick for the night shift, and this man was asked to close the kitchen, a responsibility he'd never been given.
"I was so excited and nervous. I worked very hard. I did my best," he told me.
The next day, his day off, the manager called him into work. He thought it was just another normal shift (he always picked up any extra shift he could get), but that night, they told him he'd be closing the kitchen. He'd been promoted. No more dishes.
As he talked to me and told me his story, his eyes literally sparkled. He said, "I could not believe it. First I had a job, and then I was promoted in just a few short months. I kept telling myself, thanks be to God."
Within a few more months, he was promoted again. A few months later, the same thing happened. Now, two-and-a-half years later, he is an assistant manager. He could hardly contain his joy and pride when he told me this.
"I work hard," he told me. "Every time I go to work, I think to myself: work as hard as you can. Because of this, and because of God's will, I believe I have been successful. I can't believe it, really. I never thought, back home, that one day I would own a cell phone!"
He picked up his cell phone and held it out for me to see.
"I never thought I'd own a laptop!" he said, shoving the laptop across the table and pressing keys.
"I even have my own car!"
I sat listening to him, and I was stunned into silence. Here was a man who came to a new country only 30 months ago, and already he has learned the language, gotten a job, worked his way through several promotions, purchased a car (and laptop and phone) and is attending college.
I sat humbled. I am not humbled so much by his achievements (though they are many) but by his attitude. This man is grateful. He is truly grateful. Several times, as he spoke, his eyes shone with tears. He is so grateful to have work. He is grateful to be in school. He is grateful to make his parents proud. In fact, for his mother's first trip to the States in a few weeks, he's purchased her several gifts including a gold necklace. He is grateful for the opportunity to work.
There it is. He is grateful for the chance to work hard. He said several co-workers complain about working at McDonalds or washing dishes or customer issues, but he doesn't understand any of that. He is so happy and grateful to have work of any kind. He doesn't understand why someone would take that for granted.
I feel so grateful for that hour of work a few days ago. I feel so grateful he came into the writing center, that I was the tutor next on the list and that he felt comfortable enough to share with me his story. I feel grateful to see work, opportunity and chance though a different light. I am grateful to be shaken up a bit, my perspective shifted, by someone who had no reason at all to share so much with me.
At one point, as he was talking, he said, "I don't know why I'm telling you all of this, but I can't stop."
For that, I am grateful.