Friday, June 13, 2008

A Divine Slap on the Head

by Karen D. Swim
Photo: Ian Britton,

For the past week my truck has been doing community service. As such, my only transportation has been my two feet (you don't even want to know what happened to my bike!). My typical errands are roughly 5 miles. Normally I enjoy the additional exercise and the good feeling of being environmentally friendly. Yesterday, however, I was not feeling quite so gracious. I strapped on my backpack and headed out in the hot, humid weather. One mile into my errands the internal conversation began:

I really wish I had my truck. What was I thinking? Stupid pinecones, don't they know people walk here. Geez, trim your hedges it's like a forest out here. I wonder if I look fat in this shirt. This heat is really going to destroy my hair. Hey, wild bunny..oh man is that dog poo?

I got to my first stop,sweaty, cranky and in no mood to go on, but I had no choice. I started my internal grousing again.

It's hot. Man, how much further. Oh man it's hot. I'm tired, no you're not tired,this is nothing. Is that a...

My litany was interrupted by the sight of of someone heading my way. I spotted the pink sponge rollers first, and then took in the elderly woman in a sleek wheelchair. I perked up as our paths drew closer. We smiled and exchanged greetings and then with a hearty smile she said: "I wish I could walk." Oomph! Talk about a divine slap on the head. I continued on and uttered to myself, "I can walk, and for that I should be thankful."

I quickened my step as I asked forgiveness for being such a petulant brat. I had two legs able to carry me on 5 miles of errands with a sack on my back. The woman in the wheelchair reminded me that I was indeed blessed to be able to walk.

I continued my errands with renewed gratitude for the many gifts in my life. My eyes were open to the people and places I passed along the way, and the journey was much faster with a better attitude. I even took the long way home.

While I am in no way proud of my bad attitude, I am thankful for the gentle reminder to count my blessings.

Today's post is a bit of a departure from the typical Fierce Friday fare. However, I believe true fierceness is tempered with humility and thanksgiving. If you have had a tough week, I invite you to let go of what went wrong and focus on all the ways that you are blessed. Your list of blessings will far outweigh your list of annoyances.

Thank you for reading, commenting and continuing to inspire me to be a better person.

What was your most memorable or recent gratitude lesson? How did it impact you? Let's learn together. Share your thoughts in the comments.


Karen said...

I had a similar revelation yesterday. I finished up an interview with a deaf vet, who was telling me that his mom was now legally blind. She worked as a sign language interpreter for many years until forced to quit.

As I was driving home, I took notice of the beautiful trees among the winding road, something that I didn't notice along the way there.

Anonymous said...

Karen, you reminded me of the joy I felt when I very first took up running, and how amazed I was that I actually COULD do it. You see, when I was 15 I fell off the uneven bars in gymnastics and landed flat and hard on the floor. I cracked a vertebrae in my back that went undiagnosed for 15 years and healed improperly. 4degenerated disc around it and arthritis set in and for years I was plagued with horrible back issues so bad that I would be immobilized, couldn't walk at all, and carried on by ambulance to the hospital. When MRI's came on the scene and became more common, my broken back was finally discovered and so started the long process of physical therapy and getting better. Part of therapy was walking. Then one day I took my first steps of jogging. then my first mile. I CRIED. One Day I decided to train for a marathon. I am the SLOWEST runner. I have asthma, my back is still an issue and I have to be very careful. A friend asked me why I do it. Why do I run? Why would I bother? My answer was the mantra that carried me through six hours of the slowest marathon and the greatest victory when I crossed the finish line.


I never forget where I came from. I live a grateful life. great post today. Thanks for the reminder. :)

Wendi Kelly

Steph VanderMeulen said...

Holy crap! That woman was totally put there for you. WOW!

Thanks for passing on the reminder to be grateful every day rather than take things for granted.

Words For Hire said...

@ Karen, I really believe God puts these people in our path not to pity but to remember to always give thanks, we all have reasons to be thankful. Thank you for yet another reason to rejoice today!

@Wendi, I totally get that! I feel the same way about running & marathons which I know is ironic I complain about walking 5 miles!

@Steph, God seems to know when I need a big fat reality check. LOL!

Brett Legree said...


I love what you wrote today, because I've had so many of these moments in my life. I wrote about my cousin losing her life to cancer a while back - that was one of these moments for me, where I gave thanks that I am still able to make choices - to choose how to react.

And even something simpler, from many years ago when my oldest was a newborn.

My wife asked me to get up and feed him around 3 am, and (at the time) not used to the really early starts, I felt a bit grumpy.

But there I was, standing in the kitchen holding him, watching him smile as he drank his formula.

I looked at the cute little cartoon characters on the bottle.

And then I thought about the other little babies elsewhere in the world, who didn't have cartoon bottles. Who didn't have bottles. Or formula to eat.

Who didn't have the luxury of living in nice houses, where their parents were safe from gangs of thugs.

Then I smiled.

Yes, I've had moments when I've been grumpy. We all do.

And then, someone (or is that, Someone) slaps us on the head.

Thanks for a nice story today.


Joanna said...

Karen, what a great story. I loved the internal commentary - I think most of us will recognise something of ourselves there!

Gratitude is the best frame of mind to work from it really is. Thanks for reminding me to get back there


ellen wilson said...

I was taking pictures in Mason, MI and came across a memorial to WWII and Vietnam veterans. I thought of them and wondered what they went through. I'm always thinking I'm alive, isn't that bizarre? I have to do my part to make the world a better place while I'm here.

Thanks, Karen.

I think it's part of the human condition to feel small and whiney. I think God (however you view God) helps you with that. There has to be something bigger than your small self. You know?
Hope you had a good week and wishing you well. E

Nadine Touzet said...

Karen, I'm so glad I dropped by before signing off after a good week but a bad and, I must admit, rather depressing afternoon and evening today.

This story reminds me of so many examples my memory has collected over the years: the American woman in a wheelchair in great danger of toppling over on the big uneven stones of the Foro Romano in Rome, but so keen to get to the top of the hill, a fellow interpreter also in a wheelchair, who's never late for conferences despite the hurdles of urban life she has to fight, the nearly-dying CEO of a client company who turned up for a meeting, sat exhausted in a chair in the corridor and smiled to me so sweetly as I ambled into the conference room, he died the following week... His smile was a gift of life.

Yes, these are essential signs, and we have a duty to take notice, because they are here to help and support us throughout our lives. You were lucky today, after all, and I was lucky to come here.

Anonymous said...


I had hemorrhoid surgery 12 years ago. I won't go into gory details. But suffice to say the pain afterwards was incredible (especially going potty).

At times, I would curl up into a ball on the bed, and just pray that I would pass out.

I remember these low points. Forget the career, money, house, degree, car, wife and kids, etc. I didnt' care.

The most important thing in the whole world at that time, was to stop the pain.

That was a wake-up call to me on how important one's health is.

The sad thing is...there are people 10 times worse off than I was at my lowest point.

Kinda puts things in perspective, eh?

Anonymous said...


That last comment was me (I haven't figured out how to use my Wordpress identity on blodspot

- Friar

Damon Zahariades said...

Awesome post, Karen.

I live in Southern California and take short walks each day and evening. There's a lot I'm thankful for. Here's an example...

The weather here is usually fantastic. At the same time, it's surreal when I think of the weather being experienced around the globe (and in other states).

Every day, I look up at the sky and I'm thankful. Not only because the weather is gorgeous, but because I've never been forced to deal with floods and similar calamities.

Just one of many examples. Thanks for the post, Karen. It's got me thinking. :)

Words For Hire said...

Sorry I'm so late with my response! I somehow missed these notifications! Thank you everyone for reading and commenting!

@Brett, you are so sensitive and intuitive so this story does not surprise me about you. You truly teach us all to live and appreciate the moment. Thanks for sharing that story my kilted wonder friend. I made me feel grateful all over again.

@Joanna, you started the month off teaching us to write from an attitude of gratitude. It was a profound post that really changed the way I approach the page. Yet, I too am capable of falling short. I'm only happy that I was snapped out of it! I'm also glad to hear that I am not alone in my internal chatter, those conversations are often a bit wild! LOL!

@Ellen, I used to go to the VA cemetery in CA alot (my parents are buried there) and I never failed to be moved by the stories behind the plaques. Every day being alive is one of the first things for which we can be truly thankful! I've never been to Mason, where is that?

@Nadine, those are such powerful images that you have shared. I got chills just reading them. I am so grateful you did stop by before ending your day. Your words were truly a gift.

@Friar, I hope to one day see your stories in a book. You are filled with the greatest stories and adventures. OUCH!! Hemorrhoid surgery is painful so if you were a bit whiny, it's understandable. I do know what you mean though, there is always someone else climbing a steeper mountain.

@Damon, thanks for the taste of home. I closed my eyes and fondly remembered. You have given me yet another reason to be thankful. :-)

David Tamayo said...

Positivity can be found adversity precisely through gratitude. I have found that no matter how negative a position I have been in my life, there will always be something to be grateful for. I really enjoyed your post. Thank you. =0)

Words For Hire said...

Hi David! Thank you so much for reading and commenting - I am grateful for the support! I agree that even in adversity we can be thankful. In fact, I have found the greatest growth in my own life when I have faced the greatest challenges. :-)

Brett Legree said...


Thank you, you are just the same in that way. I am glad you liked that story, whenever I'm feeling like I don't have what I need, I just think of the cartoon bottles.

sexy said...