A Lesson on Being Thankful

A Lesson on Being Thankful by Rodney Ashfield #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #WUWorldChanger #Thankful

A few words on thankfulness, which seems appropriate given the recent Canadian Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day in Canada, as well as the upcoming American Thanksgiving to the south.

Difficult times, but still so much to value.

Many years ago, I was a first-year university student. Like most young men of that age, I regularly went from feeling sorry for myself and my cerebral palsy to feeling quite “cocky” about life and my place in it, new friends, the big city, rooms full of new learning, pretty girls everywhere.

Part of my routine in the first year or two, aside from reading books, writing papers, and playing pool, was regular trips to Regina’s Wascana Rehabilitation Centre where a beautiful physiotherapist named Sharon would make me weep with painful yet necessary stretches of my calf and hamstring muscles. This involved sitting on a therapy table with a towel which I held by the ends looped around my feet. And I pulled. And pulled. All while bending forward from the waist, trying to keep my offended and aching legs straight. It hurt. It was one of those days where I was feeling sorrier for myself than full of vim and vigor. The sign on the wall in front of me was printed in that old dot-matrix script with a smiley face that said “No pain. No gain.” What a horrible sign, I thought, to have at this place of torture.

Then I looked over, outside my own little teary pool of agony, to a fellow across the way. I am not sure why I focused on him. The room was large and full of people in various forms of therapy. He was a First Nations fellow in a wheelchair. That wheelchair itself was not an unusual sight at Wascana. And his face looked content or so I imagined while he worked his upper body with some therapy equipment. He had solid muscles in his old body and seemed at ease, not weeping like me. He looked wise. And he had no legs from below the knees. They were wrapped in white bandages, ending at the seat of his wheelchair like two retreating glaciers.

It was then and only then that my mom’s often heard reminder of “There is always someone worse off!” made more sense to me. Years later, I often wonder what happened to that fellow. Was he a car accident victim? Did he have diabetes and ended up with amputations as a result? The latter was more likely, as I was to learn in my latest profession. Still, that man seemed much more settled back then than I was, with my self-pity. He was stoic. Despite literally having lost parts of himself, he was still doing the work he needed to do to stay vital and be ready to take on the world, despite his new predicament. I imagine he was thankful. Not for what he lost, obviously. But for what remained. Hopefully, we can all in our own unique ways be working hard, despite life’s inevitable setbacks and losses.

Without knowing it, he taught me what it means to be thankful. More than words can say.

– Rodney

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