Based in south Louisiana, Release & Gather is a blog by Holly Rabalais.  Her posts explore people, community, and matters of the heart.  Everyone has a unique journey.  Welcome to a window into hers.

Flip-flops, Camo Shorts, and a Zebra Print Pillow

Nearly three weeks have passed since Sam said goodbye to his “little nest,” a spot beneath an I-110 overpass where he covered himself with a tarp and slept on a piece of styrofoam.  He has settled into his apartment, creating a new nest with donations of furniture, cleaning supplies, kitchen essentials, and even a zebra print decorative pillow (I voted not to drop a zebra-striped throw pillow on a 57-year-old guy, but somehow it still made it into the box of donations).  Thanks to clothing donations, Sam’s outfit is varied now when I see him (tonight he was wearing a turquoise t-shirt and camo shorts!), and he shuffles around in his new flip-flops.  

But one thing is unchanged--his smile.

“Every day I come home, and I’m still in awe.  I turn my key in the door and just stop for a minute and say, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’  Then I walk right on in!”

He called me from work the other day, so excited, “Ms. Holly, I’ve had a good day!  They know I been wanting more hours, so they gone let me work Saturday and Sunday!  They having some event Saturday, so I’ll get to work from 3 to probably 11 or 12.  And you know Mother’s Day is Sunday, so I’ll work from 8 to about 4.”

“Sam, do the buses run that late on Saturday?”

“Well, no.  But I can’t worry about that Ms. Holly--the good Lord’s gonna take care of me.  I’m just glad to have the work to keep my mind busy.  You know, when my mind be busy, Satan can’t get in.”

Why do I take so much for granted instead of living in a state of gratitude and joy?

On my best days, I grumble about my commute into the city, the people I have to deal with once I get there, and the fact that I can’t hear myself think most days in my cubicle environment.  But here is a man who is just so thankful that he gets to work seven days this week.  Here is a man who has an apartment that most of us would turn up our noses at, and he’s thankful to step over the threshold each afternoon.  Thankful to rest on a secondhand sofa at the end of a long day of restaurant kitchen work.  Thankful to prop his feet up on an old table where he has displayed two donated coasters declaring “Life is good.”  Thankful that he is able to rig up donated curtains using an old extension cord he found.  Thankful for an unwieldy TV and a used DVD player.  Thankful for a handful of DVDs from the $3.74 bin at Walmart--movies he has now watched two times each in 4 days.  Thankful, even, for that zebra-striped decorative pillow that he proudly displays on a shelf in his den.  Thankful.

Today I walked outside to soak in some of the beautiful weather we’ve had this week.  The man who cleans our office was taking the trash out, and we started chatting.  I learned that Michael lives 20 miles away because he helps care for his 90+-year-old grandparents who raised him.  He doesn’t have a car.  On the days when he works mornings, he stays with his daughter in Baton Rouge and walks two and a half miles to the office.  Every single time I see him, he has a smile on his face.  I’m not talking about a smirk or a grin, but an all-out squinty-eyed, just-got-off-the-fast-slide smile of exhilarating joy.

“You know, the struggles make us better,” he said.  “It’s hard not having a car so I can drive myself to work, but I just do what I gotta do and always smile.  My grandparents taught me that.  You have to stay positive.”

An attitude of gratitude--seeking the positive in all things--positions you for joyful living.

Rejoice always!  Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Waiting for Deliverance - Part 2

Are You Ready for Your Richard?