55: Looking Out a Window

55: Looking Out a Window

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Looking Out a Window

You cannot fully understand your own life without knowing and thinking beyond your life, your own neighborhood, and even your own nation.

~Johnnetta Cole

Following my mother’s death after a long battle with breast cancer, my grief was so overwhelming that I stopped functioning for a while. At the same time, my husband’s engineering business was struggling, and money was scarce. Christmas was approaching, and I wondered how we were going to buy gifts for our five children.

Two weeks before Christmas, my two walking buddies, Tami and Marian, showed up one morning with a beautifully decorated box. They urged me to open it right then. With trembling fingers, I did so. Inside I found treasure after treasure: exquisite handmade cards complete with stamps, a variety of fine chocolates, and two angel pins.

My eyes filled with tears as I took in the very personal gifts. Each was chosen with care, thought, and love.

The love my friends showed me during what had promised to be a dismal season reminded me that angels were watching over me. These angels appeared in the guise of friends.

Their loving gesture turned my attitude around. I found myself once again excited about Christmas, excited at the possibilities.

For the first time in months, I started looking outward rather than inward. My thoughts turned to others. What could I do to turn around the attitude of someone who was struggling just as I had been?

As my husband said, “You need to look out a window instead of in a mirror.”

His words startled me. Was that what I had been doing? Staring in a mirror? Had I become so self-absorbed, so self-involved, that I had forgotten that others had problems?

The unfortunate answer was “Yes.”

I resolved then and there to find what was positive in my life and to share that with others. I didn’t have much money, but I did have time. I started to share that. I volunteered to take a seventyish widow in our church to doctor appointments and to the grocery store. I wrote cards to people who I knew were lonely and needed an extra dose of love.

My prayers were full of thanksgiving. I consciously counted my blessings and found them overwhelming. A husband who loved me. Sweet children who tried their best to help whenever they could. A group of devoted friends who were always there for me.

And then I did something that appeared to have nothing to do with building a positive attitude: I cleaned house. No, I don’t mean scrubbing toilets (though I did that as well). I cleared out the clutter.

The clothes that no longer fit were sent to a charity thrift store. Books that had been read and re-read were donated to the local library for its yearly sale. Toys that the children no longer played with were given to a family with young children.

There was something freeing in cleaning out the clutter that had collected over the years.

Even as I was getting rid of unwanted items, I questioned my actions. Our family was struggling financially. Could we really afford to give things away? Should I save them for the garage sale I was always planning to hold? Shouldn’t I be trying to make money?

The quiet peace in my heart was answer enough.

Cleaning out the physical clutter in my life prompted me to clean out the clutter in my heart. I made an effort to let go of old grudges and hurts. I worked to banish the obstacles that were holding me back from being the kind of person I wanted to be.

Can helping others and cleaning out clutter work for everyone in their quest of a positive attitude? Maybe. Maybe not.

But they, along with a pair of angels in sneakers and sweats, helped me find my way back to looking out a window rather than staring in a mirror.

~Jane McBride Choate

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