One of the girls in my home asked to go on a walk with me to express her feelings. Sometimes when a girl asks to go on a walk like this to “express their feelings” she is really just trying to get out of having to do work around the house, or she simply wants to complain about something or someone. But this time I could tell that a walk to express feelings was actually what was needed.
It was early evening as we walked out through the front door. A cool autumn breeze was blowing, just cold enough to make me uncomfortable if I had not worn a jacket. We started on one of the typical loops around the neighborhood. We walked for a few seconds before she finally spoke up.
“Andrew, I hate my life.”
That statement hung in the air for a while as we walked in silence. I tried to gather my thoughts about how to respond to such a statement. The thing is, this girl has a lot in her life to hate. One of those situations that seem almost too horrible to be true. Stories of rape at gunpoint, drugs, gangs, family and friends murdered, being sex trafficked, etc.
After few moments of silence, I responded.
“These things of your past, they are some of the heaviest things I can imagine to have to carry around. I’m so sorry those things have happened to you. I don’t have good answers as to why, but I know that as unsure as the future may look, there is still hope. I think of people who struggle with addiction, with using drugs or alcohol, and they have to take each day one day at a time, sometimes each hour one hour at a time. To think too far into the future seems like too much, and that leads to catastrophic thinking. People with these sorts of struggles have to take things day by day. You might have to do that from time to time when things are hard for you. One day at a time. I think the key for you now is to look around you for the things to be grateful for, because if you want to experience joy, you have to have gratefulness.
Notice the beauty around you, be thankful for that moment in time. Remember you are here in the present. You aren’t in the past, you don’t know the future. But you are here, right now. There are things to be grateful for right now.”
And right then on the walk the sky was bursting with all sorts of great pinks and purples, light blues and reds in the sky. Just crazy beautiful. And so as I was talking I said, “For instance, this sky, the sunset is beautiful tonight. Wow! Soak it in. Love it. Be grateful for it. It makes life just a little bit better.”
And later in the walk as we were talking she paused mid-sentence, “Wow, seriously, what is up with the sky right now, though? Why does it look so good?”
She said it like she had never thought to notice or appreciate a sunset before. And it gave me a glimmer of hope. I looked up to the highest part of the sky and mouthed, “Thank you!”