Select Page

Shall I play for you?
Pa-rum pum pum pum
Pa-rum pum pum pum
Mary nodded
Pa-rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa-rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa-rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa-rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me
Pa-rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum”

 Katherine Kennicott Davis 

There are those who have extra. They have all of their needs met, and they still have some left over. They never worry about paying rent this month, or whether the electricity is going to be shut off, or the car repossessed. They have plenty of food, and they can always get another pack of cigarettes. I have never, in my life, been among them, with the exception of almost a year after I retired, and I pulled the little money I had. I lived on it, and I had more than I needed, for a little while. And it was glorious.

It has been suggested that my choice was irresponsible. That may well be true, but I would never make a different one. The money I had would never have been enough to sustain me throughout the rest of my life. And, if I hadn’t done what I did, I would never have had the experience of living the life I wanted. I will never have it again, and I know that, but I’m grateful that I got to have it once. No matter what happens for the rest of my life, I lived a life I wanted for a little while. I saw people and places I couldn’t have seen otherwise. I wrote a damn good screenplay that still needs work. I made some fantastic videos. I slept until I wanted to get up. I worked until all hours of the night when I wanted to. I was never out of cigarettes or soda, and I ate properly. It was a Wonderful Life. George Bailey would have approved.

I have no money to offer anyone, anymore. I did for a little while, and I helped out anyone who needed it. I allowed a couple of convicted felons to live with me rent free for several months until I couldn’t afford it anymore, and we were close to eviction. They needed help, and I could offer it. I regret that, I suppose, in some ways, but, for the most part, I’m glad I did what I did. It was the right thing to do. And, for a little while, I had their Gratitude. And, that is what made the difference.

When I felt that I was making a difference in the lives of people who needed my help, I got something from it. I got to feel that I mattered. I got to believe that someone was better off because of me. Is that arrogant? Perhaps. I still enjoyed the feeling. It’s the feeling I sought when I became a teacher. It’s the feeling I have always most enjoyed. When they began to take it for granted, and they refused even to try to find work, I admit I grew resentful.

I like to recommend focusing on one’s reasons for Gratitude as often as possible. Not only do other people get something from it, but more importantly, you can keep yourself from feeling entirely defeated. You must be of some value to someone, or they would never do all the things they have done for you. That’s worth remembering when fighting off your Depression.

I’m at a place in life where there is little I can give to anyone, anymore. I’m too old to teach Elementary School, and my diabetes has made those kinds of days impossible for me. As I loathe what has happened to public education, I don’t think I would want to do it anyway, but I have noting but respect for those who carry on the profession. The world needs you. And, I’m grateful to you.

I think Gratitude may be the last, best thing I have to offer. And, of course, I recognize (daily) that I have much more for which to be grateful than many people. I have a home. I have enough to eat. I have a car. I have a cell phone. I have this computer. More than those things, though, I have people who I love and who love me. And, of all the things I value in my life, it is the people I value most.

There have been several occasions in the past several years when I should have been without a home. My nephew was the first to save me from it by getting me an extended stay hotel room until I could get the money together to rent the tiny studio apartment I was trying to get. Without him, I would undoubtedly have been living in my car.

Before I could get out of the 2 week rental of the hotel room, I wound up in the hospital with Diabetic Ketoacidosis. I should have been not simply homeless, on that day; I should have been dead. But, a friend called to check on me, couldn’t get me to answer, and became concerned. She communicated with my nephew, and somehow the decision was reached to have the Mesa Police break into my room if necessary to do a Welfare Check. When they arrived, I was mostly dead. They took me to the hospital, and I woke up a couple of days later.

By the time I got out of the hospital, the room rental had run out, and again, it was people who saved me. One of my colleagues at Alorica, who had called me every day of my hospitalization, offered to let my dog and me live with her and her wife until I could work out my new place. And, it wasn’t long before the three of us, plus their three cats and my dog, were all sharing their place. I wasn’t going to be homeless.

I managed to contribute enough to the household that we managed to avoid homelessness for the last couple of years, although, again, only because people stepped in to save us. My friends and relatives have saved my car, kept me from eviction, saved my life, and made sure I knew I still matter. So have the friends and relatives of my roommates.

I feel now like The Little Drummer Boy. (Although, I have to swap my Writing for my Drumming. I’m not even good enough to be considered a mediocre drummer anymore.) He went to see the newborn king, but he had nothing to bring. Everyone else was bringing cool stuff: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. He was, like Jesus, a poor boy. All he had was his ability. He couldn’t feed the baby. He couldn’t offer him a place to sleep. He had none of those things, himself. But, what he had to give was his talent. And, when the kid played his drum, the baby Jesus smiled at him. I like to believe that when you read my words, you smile.

I think, if I were The Little Drummer Boy, that smile would have been more than enough to repay me for my performance. Why? The kid knew he made a difference. He made a child smile. He felt Gratitude from the baby.

I can never pay back the people who have helped me, unless, of course, Steven Spielberg decides he can’t wait to get his hands on my screenplay, or I win the lottery, which I can’t afford to play, thereby reducing the already incredibly small odds greatly.

What I can hope to give to others, though, is the feeling I have most valued in my life. I do my best to give my friends and family, and all the people who have helped me, the feeling that they made a significant difference. And, for many people, this seems as valuable as the smile was to The Little Drummer Boy. I do this by explaining precisely how they helped me. I want them never to doubt my Genuine Gratitude. I hope to return the Glowing Feeling they have given me. Sometimes it comes from someone sending me something, and sometimes it comes from something as small as Clicking Like on a post or a blog entry. I glow with Joy. I hope you do, too, when I express my thanks.

They continue to help me all the time. Last week my bed was destroyed by the incontinence brought on by my blood sugar dropping below detectable levels. I mentioned the incident on Facebook, and by the end of the week, people were sweeping in to change my life. I didn’t wind up only with a new mattress that I couldn’t have gotten for a couple more weeks, and then, only at a Thrift Store. I wound up with the most beautiful bedroom set I’ve ever owned. There are new sheets and comforters coming from someone else. There are pillows on the way. People have thrown in some cash to help me. And I asked for precisely NONE of those things. (Well, I did send a close friend a message asking if she could help me out to get the bed… and she came through in an over the top way. And she and her husband kept me afloat just a little while longer. It meant Everything to me. I hope I made her feel that.)

I did my very best to let all of these people know that what they did changed and improved my life significantly. When I got out of the hospital a couple of years ago, all I had was an air mattress on which to sleep. And I was grateful for that. It was all my Little Drummer Boys had to offer, and it kept me alive and going. Today, I have a king bed, a massive mirror, special lights above the bed, and matching bedside tables and a dresser. This was completely out of my ability to obtain, ever again. I feel as though I’m living in The Lap of Luxury.

I know I will never be able to return to people the money they’ve given me from time to time. In the past 3 years, my record for earning in a single month has been $1600, and by the end of that month I was in the hospital with DKA. I usually make just shy of $1000, though I’m hoping for more from the raise I recently got. It won’t be much, but it will make a difference. I’m hoping to train for a new job that would pay me even more, but that’s up to my employer. I’ll do my best.

But, if I can give them the feeling that they made my life better, and let them feel that in a way that is completely free of ulterior motives, so that they can see and experience the difference for themselves, I think I will have given them some little bit of Joy. I know how good I feel when I know that I made someone’s life better. My favorite part of my Facebook page is when a former student pops up to tell me about the way I inspired, excited, influenced, or helped them in some way. Their Gratitude is worth more to me than my paychecks were. I get to feel like I matter. I love that feeling.

This morning, I took $11.00 to Wal Mart to get enough Diet Pepsi to make sure I wouldn’t run out before my roommate gets paid on Thursday. I’m addicted to caffeine, and to be without is not a pleasant experience. The headaches alone are beyond description. I spent $10.44 on the soda, and I had 56 cents left in my pocket.

On my way back to the car, a man who was, based on his attire, in much worse condition than I am at the moment, asked me if I had any change. I recognized his state, and I recognized that I could very easily end up being him in the not too distant future. I have, fortunately, never yet been required to stand in a parking lot asking strangers for money. There’s nothing to say I never will be. And, I can only imagine how horrible that must feel. He was trying to get a bus pass or something, and said he was short. I gave him the 56 cents. And, he was genuinely grateful. The feeling inside of me was worth way more than the quarters, nickel, and penny he got from me. He told me that was great, and he was really close now. I don’t believe for a moment I changed his life. But, Life is made up of Moments. And each of us gave the other a Pleasant Moment by exchanging what we had. I had a little bit of money. He had a little bit of Gratitude. I’m sure there are capitalists among my readers who think what I did was wrong. If I’m so damn broke, what am I doing giving money to strangers? I’m Making a Difference.

Today, for those of you who have helped me, I want to you to know that you matter. I’m doing as well as I am today, in large part, because of you. Without your help, whether it was financial, or emotional, or in the form of something you gave me, or something you did for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. No, I’m not at The Top of The World, but I AM on the Green Side of the Earth, and that’s a good beginning. I can keep working on pulling myself up a little bit at a time because of the people who love me.

Generosity of Spirit is as valuable as Genuine Gratitude. I offer mine.

If you would like to help out a bit, I will be able to offer you my Gratitude, too, even if all you do is click Like. It will make me glow. If you have a couple extra dollars you would like to contribute to paper and ink, I’d be glad to have that, too, but please don’t feel remotely obligated.