How My 4th Grade Classmate Changed My Outlook On Life (In Just 4 Words)

More Stories like:

“You know how there are a few moments in your life that stand out from the rest? Maybe they were something really major, or maybe they were something completely mundane, but for whatever reason, they stuck with you like those extra holiday pounds. Don’t act like you don’t have them too.

I am pretty sure I lost all of my baby weight (my youngest is over two years old, so…) but then Thanksgiving happened, and then Christmas, then Girl Scout cookie season, and now it’s baseball season for my oldest two kids and it’s so stinking busy I don’t even know what’s going on and I just eat whenever I get the chance.

Half of my son’s leftover hotdog? Sure. Chick-fil-A again? It works. Tacos four times a week? Yes, let’s do that. We don’t tell tacos what they can and can’t do in our home. No sir. No taco Tuesday for us. We don’t limit the power of the taco to one measly night a week.

Anyways… that’s not the point. I have a main point, but be prepared, empty your bladder before we hit the road, and grab whatever snacks your arms can hold at the convenience store like a kid who’s been given a $10 bill and told to ‘go nuts,’ because we’re going to make an awful lot of twists and turns and pit stops on our way there.

The point is, one of those moments that has always stuck with me happened in the third or fourth grade. I know…for the life of me I can’t remember where I left my brand-new sunglasses, but I can remember this and I have no idea why.

There was this kid in my class named Billy. I don’t know anything about Billy’s story, but I know his family must have struggled financially. I know he was often forgotten at school pickup.

Maybe his mom was working three jobs and just couldn’t make it there on time. Maybe he didn’t live with his mom at all, and his grandparents were his sole guardians. I knew nothing then. I know nothing now.

But my mom really had a heart for Billy, and she’d often bring him home from school.

One day we were bringing him home, along with one of my friends who was coming over to play for the afternoon. At the time, we had this Chevrolet minivan. It was gold. It wasn’t fancy or flashy. It had cloth seats and was the bare minimum. It was just a minivan, but it worked. It got us where we needed to go safely.

I guess I was trying to look cool in front of my friend, as if my wind suit wasn’t enough to do the job and solidify my status, but I remember saying something along the lines of, ‘Yeah, I hate this car. It’s dumb.’

And then I vividly remember Billy gently running his left hand over the dashboard and softly saying, ‘I think it’s nice.’ And there went my gut. It dropped, and I swear I could feel it in the soles of my shoes. How rude was I? How unsympathetic? How jerkish?

Honestly, the humble pie I shoved in my face that day is probably where the extra weight has been coming from all these years. Humble pie tastes terrible, but it’s high in calories and it has a tendency to bind to your bones and remind you over and over throughout the course of your life to sit down and give other people grace cause you ain’t all that perfect either, sister friend.

I’m sitting here shaking my head at the age of 35, because I still feel guilty for my careless words that afternoon. I was trying to impress my friend with my comments, and instead I hurled them in someone else’s direction and left them feeling wounded. Words have so much power. We have to be better with them, plain and simple. We just do.

But that’s still not the point. Pit stop.

I hope Billy doesn’t remember that day, but honestly, I’m glad I do. It isn’t a memory that brings back warm, fuzzy feelings, but it is a memory that made me grow up and learn a valuable lesson.

Every time I get ungrateful for my house that isn’t new or well-decorated, or unsatisfied with my job that makes less than most people’s, or unhappy with my body that is perfectly healthy but isn’t as shapely as I’d like.

Every time I get fed-up with my husband for forgetting to take out the trash or frustrated with my credit card for having a smaller limit than I wish it had, or forlorn over that talent I wish was greater and would carry me to the peaks of success.

Every time I get down for only having a small circle of friends, or despondent over that baby who won’t sleep through the night, or distressed about that embarrassing family who seems a little crazy, or that mom who can be way too critical, or that face I wish was prettier, or those clothes I wish would wash themselves, or whatever it may be.

Honestly, it could be anything. I am reminded that somewhere in the world, probably somewhere in my own neighborhood, lives someone who would gladly take whatever I am complaining about, gently run their hands over it and say, ‘I think it’s nice.’

That thing I think lacks, someone else thinks is enough. That thing I think is insufficient, someone else thinks is plenty. That thing I think is ugly, someone else thinks is beautiful. That thing I toss aside, someone else would treasure.

I’m convinced that gratitude is at the ground floor of most good things. Gratitude grows a garden of joy, and peace and contentment. Gratitude grows beauty. Gratitude grows positivity.

Gratitude doesn’t necessarily change anything about what we actually have, but it does change our perception of it. Perception is a key component to a good life.

Gratitude doesn’t necessarily take whatever life throws its way and roll over and die. Gratitude isn’t a doormat. But gratitude does have a mesmerizing way of looking on the bright side and saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to try to work with this. I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to plant this and believe it can eventually bloom.’

Gratitude gives thanks for the seed. Gratitude gives thanks for the flower. Gratitude gives thanks for the sun. Gratitude gives thanks for the rain.

But gratitude doesn’t even stand a chance if it can’t simply see all that lies within its grasp.

We spend so much of our life being discontent, rushing to fill the void with more fillers, more stuff, more shiny things. Convinced that what we need, what our heart desperately yearns for is more money, more trophies, more everything when what we really need is to open our eyes so we can see all that we already have.

It’s not about having more.

It’s about having a change of heart that teaches us to appreciate more of what we already have.”

Woman on floor of home amongst pile of clothes and laundry basket
Courtesy of Amy Weatherly

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amy Weatherly. You can follow Amy’s journey on Instagram and Twitter. Join the Love What Matter Family and subscribe to our newsletter

Read more powerful stories from Amy:

‘You’ve been burned. You’ve been talked bad about. You’ve been left out.’: Woman insists this is ‘your life,’ so ‘don’t wait’ for someone to include you

 Share  Tweet