I have always enjoyed a good riddle. One of the most famous examples is the riddle posed by the Sphinx of Thebes in Greek mythology, “What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet in midday, and three feet in the evening?” The riddle was solved by Oedipus. The answer is man. Man crawls on all fours in the morning of his life, walks on two legs in the midday of his life and uses a cane (3 feet) for additional support in old age. My riddle for you to ponder, “What is the difference between having nothing and having everything?”
The season of gift-giving is definitely upon us. Black Friday and Cyber Monday cast a long shadow on the Thanksgiving holiday. I have been bombarded for weeks with ads touting the need to upgrade to the new iPhone 15. Its features are impressive. It can take a picture of me and rearrange the pixels to give me Brad Pitt’s face when he was thirty. Those twenty pounds I have been meaning to lose - gone with the click of a button. (Actually, with Thanksgiving let’s make that twenty five pounds.) Posed with a basketball glued to my hand I could make a little hop on nearly sixty-year old hamstrings and the phone can make me look like a member of the Houston Cougars Phi Slama Jama from the early eighties.
We are conditioned to believe that what we have is never enough. What do they say in the entertainment industry? “Always leave them wanting more.”
When my wife, Amy, and I began our married life together, we packed up all of our belongings into a 5x7 trailer and headed west to Ellensburg, Washington. I was driving a Toyota 4-Runner and my wife had a Ford Festiva. Her car was so small that, rather than putting the suitcase in the back of the Festiva, I carried an extra suitcase in the 4-Runner and we could put her car inside that when the day’s drive was over. Okay - that may be a slight exaggeration, but the car was really, really small.
We didn’t know a single soul in Washington. We had no jobs. We had no place to live. In retrospect, it was a rather ill-conceived plan. I took a job that could at least pay the bills, but we had no health insurance and lived pretty frugally. Amy recalls eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Things were tight, but we were also very blessed. I have never experienced a day without food. I’ve never had a serious concern about finding a warm place to sleep at night. Most people who live in the United States are blessed beyond measure. But not everyone. Not everyone has enough to eat. Not everyone has a warm bed to sleep in at night. Some live in neighborhoods plagued by violence. Some people suffer from the heartache caused by loneliness.
Tomorrow, I will celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I will set aside some time to reflect on the many blessings that continue to be present in my life. I also need to be purposeful in remembering those who could use a helping hand.
Let’s go back to the riddle I posed earlier. “What is the difference between having nothing and having everything?” Picture a zero (0) representing nothing. Turn the zero on its side and put a twist in the middle of it. You now have the symbol for infinity (∞). That little twist is the difference between living every day with the joy that only a grateful and giving heart can bring or living life always feeling empty. Being present and responsive to the needs of others creates inner peace and fosters gratitude in others. Happy Thanksgiving!