Sundays are a good day to think about gratitude.
I got a video message this morning from a friend in Denmark. Her name is Jytte, and we met in 2011 during my second or third day on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. I was sitting on a bench outside an albergue at the end of the day, when Jytte walked up and introduced herself. We talked for a while and went our separate ways, then crossed paths again several times and wound up becoming friends.
One day, I was walking with another lifelong friend I made over there, Tom, from Norway, and the trail we were on split into two parallel sections. We were walking pretty much side by side, but the part of the trail I took started rising above where Tom was walking. At some point, I decided to jump back down on the level section, and when I did, my back did not appreciate it at all.
Probably not a good idea to make a three-foot jump with a loaded backpack strapped on after walking 15 or 18 miles already.
We were out in the middle of nowhere; the albergue we were headed for was another 2 or 3 kilometers or so ahead, and I was in fairly significant pain. I was listing pretty severely to one side and sort of staggering along.
At some point, Jytte came up behind me and I told her what happened and she offered to carry my backpack for me. I said, no, no, no — wasn’t going to let a girl carry my backpack, for heaven’s sake — and eventually I made it to the albergue. I remember when I walked through the gate, a young lady with long, dark hair greeted me with a big smile and said, “Hallo. You want to spend the night?”
I was in a lot of pain and sort of out of breath, and I nodded and said, yes, please.
Usually, when you arrive at an albergue at the end of the day, the first thing you do is find a bunk, take a shower, change clothes, wash your sweaty, dirty clothes and hang them up to dry, then go have something to eat or drink. This time, I went and laid down. I was in a lotta pain.
Sometime later, Jytte offered to help. We sat in the living room area of the albergue — a really nice place with a kitchen and dining room, big dormitory, and backyard swimming pool. Jytte sat in a chair across from me and set my feet in her lap, put some lotion on her hands and started massaging my feet. She massaged and twisted and turned and pulled. I could feel what she was doing all the way up into my lower back. When she finished, the pain was completely gone.
It was pretty amazing.
So anyway, she sent me this video, saying that she has been watching my Live talks on Facebook, and although she didn’t come right out and say it, I think she was sending me a message about gratitude, and a little bit about faith and acceptance.
She said she has been watching me talk about “fighting my body’s … maturity.”
Railing against the aging process, so to speak.
She said she may not move as quickly as she once did, and her body may not be what it once was, but that it is OK. Not only is it OK for her body to age, she said, she is grateful.
“Old age is not always coming at the wrong time,” she said gently, with a big smile.
“My hair is not gray; these are wisdom highlights. If God wanted me to touch my toes with my hands, he would have placed them on my knees.
“I did not reach my fitness this morning for the 50th year in a row, but now, I think I will call my bathroom the gym, so I can say every morning, I went to the gym.
“I don’t have to go to school anymore. I have my own pillow. I get a big check every month from the state. I have a driver’s license. My own car. I talk to myself once in a while, but sometimes, I need expert advice.”
I think there’s a lot of hidden wisdom in those words.
I’ll continue to fight against my body’s maturity, as Jytte says, but I’ll also try and remember to be grateful. I’m in good health. I have a family who loves me; friends who love and care about me. I have a nice home. Roof over my head; food in the fridge. I get automatic deposits in my bank account every month. I don’t have to set an alarm clock anymore. I work when I want to and I enjoy what I do. I have a pocket full of change. I’m pretty damn happy and hopeful most of the time.
Gratitude is the key, man …