Are you having trouble feeling grateful ? Sometimes we just need a small reality check to bring things into focus.
Its easy when things aren’t going so well for us or we’re feeling down or lonely or sad about an event that has occurred, to feel that the world is not fair or that life sucks. For sure, there will have been times in all of our lives when things do go awry and we feel upset or depressed or angry, and rest assured, there will be more!
One thing I know for sure, is that when a life event like this occurs, one of the most effective ways to knock me out of total self pity, is to take a moment and think about all those people in the world who have it way worse than me. And there are always lots! Of course, we are entitled to feel sad, lost, lonely or angry. Working through these is a process that takes its own time. Sometimes though, that little reality check can be quite powerful. This happened to me recently, and I’m going to share a little story with you……….
I wrote this after suffering the loss of a close family member. I was away at the time which made it worse and I was feeling sad, upset and alone. Then I remembered this beautiful little girl I encountered, just weeks ago……..
How lucky I am, we are.
A few weeks back while waiting for a train in a sleepy little Italian village, I was abruptly pulled out of idly ‘people watching’ by a sudden loud ‘Boom Boom’ of reggae music directly behind me, horribly assaulting my eardrums !
I turned to see a worn, resolute gypsy woman, seemingly hardened by life, with a massive boom box hanging around her neck on a piece of rope. She was turning the volume higher and higher so as people, like me, would turn and look. In front of her was a beautiful small child, I’m guessing her grand daughter. The girl was being harshly and abruptly instructed, to dance and perform.
The little girl was obviously ashamed and embarrassed about what she had to do and showed no enthusiasm or vitality. She looked uncomfortable and sad and didn’t look at the people around her, keeping her eyes elsewhere. Her eyes were sad and empty and very vigilant. Every time she stopped or slowed, she was ordered to keep going. The Nonna indicated she needed to move more and stick her bum out and slap it with her hand.
After some time, the music was lowered and she was handed an old tin. The child knew what she was expected to do and walked along the lines of people waiting for their train, holding out her tin, begging for money. She had her eyes lowered and scuffled, almost trying to hide away amongst long legs, skirts and suitcases. Upon returning to her Nonna, the contents of the can were quickly retrieved and pocketed and the music set up again and the cycle repeated.
Nearby was a young woman sitting on the ground nursing her baby son. I watched the young girl kiss and tickle the baby when the 'boss' had left for a couple of minutes. She escaped for a few moments from reality and laughed and talked with her baby brother. What a beautiful smile!
Looking at the young woman, the scenario before me began to unfold. My guess is, she had been the child ‘entertainer’ when she was young and cute, performing for travellers and tourists at the bidding of her mother, or possibly her own Nonna. She grew older and one day, she just wasn’t so cute any more so it was time for her to produce her own child to carry on the family income stream. Only my guess, but quite probable.
So this was this tiny child’s daily existence. No schooling, no playing, no friends. A dark, sad and dismal future seemed set in concrete already and she was still only a baby.
It got me thinking of my own girls at this age and the disparity of life’s learning and experience. I felt a surging gratitude, that I was fortunate enough to be able to raise my family the way I could, with the benefits of warmth, daily food, education, positive relationships, happy memories and support. Any trials they suffered pale when set alongside the ongoing hardships for this little girl.
How lucky I am, how lucky my children are to have been given our lives and not the hardships and sadness encountered by this youngster and her family and all the other children and families in the world who are not as privileged..
Sometimes, we need a reality check like this to wake us up as to how amazing and lucky we are in our place in the world.
The saddest thing?
4 days later when we returned to the same train station, it was deja vu. Same Nonna, same boom box, different music, and the same awkward ashamed little girl.
Just wanted to pick her up and put her in my suitcase.