There are those glorious days when my faithful hound dog companion Xena manages to forget that she is over eleven years old. Today was one of those splendid instances. As we walked through the neighborhood park, Xena was a puppy at heart. She would clumsily scamper from tree to tree; checking out the latest “pee-mails” from her canine friends. As we walked down the cement pathway, her tail and nose were proudly up in the air as she cantered with reclaimed youth!
As we worked our way down the path, I took notice of an elderly man walking up the incline towards us. In each hand he held a well-worn walking stick; using his arms to take over part of the load that challenged his slim legs. He took notice of Xena and paused momentarily, a broad smile forming on his tanned and weathered face. I imagined that perhaps we might be bringing back memories of some fond dog in his long past.
Xena is a highly social dog by nature; believing that everybody she comes across will be her next best friend on Earth. I always restrain her eager lunges, assuring that the individual in front of me really wants to be sniffed by one hundred plus pounds of happy hound dog. In this case, the old man brought his hand forward to be smelled by Xena. It was not long before he was scratching behind her ears and she was happily wagging her tail. Another stranger conquered by the Catahoula-Plott Hound princess!
I am the type of person that will speak with anybody. I am fascinated by humanity and yearn to long from every encounter with a new soul. As the man looked back up at me, I asked how he was doing.
“Better than I deserve,” was his pleasant reply. With that he smiled at me, patted Xena on the head one last time, and continued his climb up the cemented incline.
We worked our way towards a marshy area as I chuckled to myself. I just love these crusty old retired types. They always have some well-rehearsed and comical reply to my greetings. This character had been no different, what with his retired US Air Force cap and all. I was certain that he cracked them up at the Friday night American Legion social gatherings!
Pulling Xena away from a muddy pool of rainwater, the man’s words rolled around in my head. The more I thought about it, the odder his retort seemed to be. Was he truly doing better than he deserved to be? Was there some deep dark secret lurking in his past that he was awaiting atonement for? I dismissed the entire line of questioning that my mind was undertaking.
As I bent down to give my hound dog companion a drink of fresh cold water, it struck me! In a roundabout fashion the elderly gentlemen had been expressing his gratitude to me. He was relating the fact that he felt his life was full of blessings. He was eager to show the world, even a complete stranger; that he was giving thanks for the positive things in his life! What a wonderful outlook, I mused to myself.
Hours later, I am sitting on the couch with my laptop across my thighs. It never fails to amaze me how one of these stories seems to write itself. It is almost as if my fingers are taking direction from some unknown force that compels them to share these thoughts with the world. Those same fingers are now keeping rhythm with Xena’s deep snoring as she lies sprawled across one of her numerous dog beds.
I am asking myself how I am doing at this moment. Am I feeling better that I deserve to? Are my heart, soul, and mind all giving thanks for the many blessings that fill my life each and every single day? Is there a burning desire to share the happiness deep inside me with everybody I am fortunate enough to come across? The resounding answer is a yes; otherwise I would not be sharing this essay with you.
Truth be told, it is not always such. There are days when I feel tired, worn down by the frenetic pace of life. There are times where the day’s events taint my outlook. It is all too easy to fall prey to the negativity of others and to get sucked down into all that is so painfully wrong with this world. I call this living life on the surface. Before I know it, I become another one of those sour-faced individuals with nothing good to say. It is usually about that time that somebody like today’s elderly man comes into my life. They remind me that I need to live life on a deeper level.
All of us experience our moments of adversity and unhappiness. It is called humanity. At those dark moments; we need to remember the positive things in life, the gifts we have waiting to be shared with the world, and the endless blessings that surround us if only we open our eyes to them. The human being is a creature of habit. Perhaps it is time for us to form a new habit. Perhaps we need to retrain our minds to seek the positive in life, rather than dwelling in misery. Perhaps we need to open our hearts to good and our souls to blessings.
Tomorrow I will awaken to a world full of gratitude for all that is good in my life. I will open my mind, body, and soul to the beauty of our world. I will seek to embrace all of the blessings in my full life. Tomorrow I will also take Xena for another walk. Perhaps we will run into each other. When I greet you, I hope you will be able to say that you are doing “better than I deserve!”