Opinion: A Season for Gratitude

13 December 2015
  Lynne LaMaster
It’s all a matter of perspective. 

I saw an elderly man asking for money at the edge of Costco's parking lot. His dog was next to him, covered from the cold. I liked his sign that read, “Have A ♡ for Two Ol’ Dogs.”  I reached instinctively for my camera and snapped a shot or two. Then I felt a little guilty, so I told him that it's my policy not to give money but I would be happy to buy him a sandwich and bring it back to him. 

"No thank you," he said politely. "I already ate this morning, but a cup of hot coffee with cream would be much appreciated.”

"Any sugar?" I inquired. 

"Oh no, I'm diabetic, just cream. And thank you very much,” he answered. I admit, I wasn't expecting his old-fashioned manners. I agreed to get him some coffee. I returned with the largest cup I could get and a bag full of creamers from a fast-food place up the road. I parked in the gas station area, and he walked over.

"How do people find you," I asked. 

"I'm just here if I can get here,” he answered. 

By now he had me intrigued. I asked if he were a veteran, and he said no, but four of his brothers were. “Between them, they had 8 Purple Hearts,” he said. The younger children were encouraged not to join the military since his brothers had represented the family, he explained. 

I asked what he did for holidays. “Well I live in my Suburban with my lady friend,” he answered. "But last night we got a Motel 6 till noon today. I'm hoping to make enough money here so we can stay inside a second night.”

He smiled. No self-pity here. "But I'm close, I've already made $40. I’ll be able to do it.” 

I told him I had taken his photo, and maybe people would give from that. He reached out and shook my hand. “Well Rusty and I, we thank you.”

I left, feeling like I had made a new friend. I’m not sure he was an angel in disguise, but I can say, the little bit of his story that I learned had an impact on me. 

Right after that, I watched two people at Veterans Memorial Island Park playing in the snow with their dog. I watched the lady spontaneously flop down and make a snow angel. The two were on foot; their dog was wearing a sweater. Although chilly, they seemed slightly exuberant with the fresh snow and the brisk temperatures.

From there, I went to the ceremony in which they placed wreaths on the headstones at the VA Cemetery. I was reminded once again of the sacrifices so many in the military have made - and their families, too. 

Our family has had various challenges this year, as have many others, I’m sure. Yet, I’ve been blessed far more than I notice on a regular basis.

I have a roof over my head and food in my frig. It’s easy to take that and so much more for granted. We live in a beautiful community with a gigantic heart. We can worship freely and with joy. We can speak our mind - hopefully with intention and thoughtfulness. There is much to be thankful for.

Hmmm… The next time it snows, maybe I’ll make a snow angel.