2018 has Come and Gone

2019 seemed to roll unobtrusively around this year. Not that I’m one for big New Year parties or even resolutions; I’m quite happy to be in bed well before the clock strikes midnight. In fact, I’d be rather annoyed if I was still up at that ungodly hour. Even still, it came and went like a grease-fingered pick-pocket with me barely noting its passing.

Unlike previous years, I don’t even have intentions of what I’d like to achieve in the coming 12 months (well, 11 now). Perhaps that’s because work often has me feeling like a wrung-out rag and I don’t have energy for much else… but it could be more than that. I’ve often written about my ongoing wrestle with how I should be spending my time. As I’ve written in my fictional story, Escape from Hell:

I’d always assumed I’d live into my 70’s or 80’s. I saw myself dying from a heart attack while gardening or, best-case scenario, drifting off to sleep one night and never waking up. Peaceful, placid, timely. I’d never even considered I might die from a long-term illness or in tragic circumstances. I had expected death would be accompanied by a warning, a death-rattle of sorts. There would be gradual signs of declining health as my peers began to die around me. I would live, I would grow old – and then when it was time and I’d lived a full life – then I would die. I now realised those thoughts were nothing more than a hope-filled assumption. I had never expected death would approach me so stealthily or be so instantaneous.

No matter who you are, the limited-time problem is an important question of priorities that we all need to grapple with. We only get to live once, and if we don’t ask ourselves what’s important in life – on a regular basis – and then do that, we’ll find our lives are evaporating away, with little to show for it.

As a Christian, I believe that I’m answerable to God for how I spend my time while here on Earth. It’s not just about fearing a “telling off” when I get to heaven, but a responsibility to make full use of the opportunities that I have. It’s about realising that I’m not living for myself.

As an amateur writer is my spending a huge amount of hours writing good value for time? And if it is, what kind of material should I be writing? I want to write things – do things – which have eternal value. Everything else won’t survive.

In discussing this recently with a friend, he pointed out that the arts can draw people toward God. Even if it only about drawing the creator toward God, there can be value in it. Both statements are true. And yet I want to be confident that it’s what I’m supposed to do. At least I need to listen to God and give him the opportunity to tell me it’s not what I should be doing. It’s all too easy to justify what I want to do if I’m the judge. If there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s lessons on how to be selfish. If it could be called a skill, I’ve got that one mastered.

One thing I am inspired to do is begin a Word document I’m calling “The Tome of Thankfulness”. I’m going to write down in detail, and categorise all of the things which I have to be thankful for. I expect, over time, that it will grow large. Sometimes in life, I forget to be thankful and I can start to go into a woe-is-me spiral. This document will be invaluable as a source to uplift me, to remind me of the many thousands of things I have to be thankful for.

As an example: I’m thankful that I can see colours. When I’m driving down the road, I love seeing the range of greens in the tree-tops. How wonderful is that – when you consider that it’s possible that we could only see in monochrome?

I haven’t fact-checked these data, but this was from spam I received recently:

  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep… you’re richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change somewhere in the house… you are in the top 8% of the world’s wealthy
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness… you’re more blessed than a million people who won’t survive the week.
  • If you have never experienced the dangers of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation… you’re ahead of 500 million people in the world.

It seems to me, whether you ascribe to a loving God or not, if you can read this blog, you have much to be thankful for. And maybe if we are thankful, we can extend more grace and love to those around us and be happier about our lives.

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The Power of Thank You

“Thank You” are two words which when used sincerely can be powerful. When someone says “thank you” to us it means that they appreciate something that we have done, whether that be big or small. Conversely, when someone doesn’t say thank you I think it means that are either rude, taking our action for granted or both.

Being disabled and a commuter to work, I particularly appreciated a bus driver who was very considerate; pulling in perfectly to the curb to make getting on-and-off the bus easy. After several bus trips with this individual I came to know it was his consistent behaviour. So I wrote an email of gratitude and sent it to his employer.

The response I got was quite good in itself. Another staff member responded, thanking me for taking the time to give praise … it seems that most commuters only ever complain. We should be equally quick to praise as we are to complain. (And to be honest, I’m quicker at complaining myself…something to work on). I was told the driver was going to be given an award or certificate of gratitude.

Since that day, I have seen that bus driver many times, and now I get GOLD service from him. In the last few days – even as he has been driving a different bus and I have been waiting at the stop, each time we wave and smile to each other as he drives past. A little bit of gratitude can go a long way. A stranger can become a friend (* remember stranger danger still applies).

Being a Christian, I ascribe credit to every blessing as originating from God. Sometimes other people are involved, and they deserve to be thanked too. Living in a “first-world country” means that I have an incredible amount to be thankful for:

Even just this morning I have food to fill my belly and coffee to aid in the waking process. I am warm because I am in a house (and an incredibly big house by most of the world’s standards) and have ample clothing. I have electricity to light up the darkness and power my computer. I can read and write and use a computer fluently. In a short time I will have a hot shower in clean water and dress for work. I will then go outside knowing that I should be safe and catch reliable public transport. After today is over I will enjoy the blessing of a weekend in which I don’t have to work.

There are so many things to be thankful for.

We are each responsible for influencing our community; let’s make a positive influence.