Bottomed Out

Bottomed Out

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Bottomed Out

It was a difficult week.

He had completed some work in exchange for the promise that “the check is in the mail.” Not. Only bills appeared in his mailbox and never a check to pay them.

It was the holiday season—with its own slew of stressors—and the car was on the fritz again, the larder was frightfully empty, and his regular payday wasn’t until the end of the month. No food. No money. No hope.

For certain, he’d hit the bottom of the barrel.

What was he going to do? Teetering on the brink of despair, he took three deep breaths, reached for his overcoat, scarf and gloves, and headed toward the woods. Nature had always been the sanctuary he sought when he felt hopeless or depressed.

Accommodating his stride to the snow-covered ground, he crunched through the forest of regal pines and snow-flocked blue spruce. He shaded his eyes against brilliant sunlight where it mirrored the diamond-bright snow. The tip of his nose reddened, and his cheeks burned from the crisp air.

As he headed toward the pond backing his property, a deer bounded across the path. A more timid tufted titmouse followed from a distance.

And he felt his breathing gentle and his gait slow.

“Chickadee-dee-dee!” A vigilant warbler sounded its alarm. A crow flitted from treetop to fence post and back again with only an occasional, “Caw, caaaw.” A red-winged blackbird answered from the rushes fringing the pond and flew past in a swooping arc.

As he witnessed the song and dance of these feathered companions, he let go of his cares and felt satisfied as a kind of peace replaced them. Once again, nature had worked its magic—a major spiritual reconstruction on his soul. Satisfied, he turned toward the house while full-throated birdsong echoed an affirmation.

He paused at the backyard barrel to see if any bird food remained to reward his friends for their uplifting music and pleasant company. Under the seed sack he lifted from the barrel, he was startled to discover an unopened bag of flour. Ah, food for the birds . . . and food for him.

A rummage through the kitchen cupboard turned up enough ingredients for two fragrant loaves of yeasty bread. A few handfuls of assorted dried beans, a can of tomatoes and presto: Rhode Island chili with freshly baked bread! Plenty for him and his landlady. Perhaps things were not as bad as they’d seemed.

Just as the two sat down to dine, the postman delivered a parcel from a friend: jam-and-honey spread. Suddenly, the meal became even more interesting!

He gazed at the feast spread before him and the friend seated beside him and marveled at the gratitude he felt within.

Sometimes, he decided, life’s richest gifts are found at the bottom of the barrel.

Margaret Kirk

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