Last summer Becca went to Camp Louise and every day the camp director posted what the girls did for the day. I started this post one day this summer and went back to finish it now. On that summer day I was reading the post and it resonated with me and it still does...
This is the post from the camp director:
Our Middah for the week is finding Contentment With What You Have (Samayach B'Chelko). Some people think it is hard to change how you think and feel, but brain scientists have proven that is actually not hard. Just by repeating a phrase or an idea over and over again, we can re-write our brains to believe and feel differently. No matter what you have or what you get, try repeating the phrase, "I have enough" over and over. You'll soon come to believe it and feel more content with what you have.
Long ago, the little son of my friends and I became quite good friends ourselves. A lot of time we played with his two tiny cars, running them from windowsill to windowsill, parking them and racing them and telling each other all the while why we imagined we passed "on the road". Sometimes I would have the one with the chipped wheel. Sometimes he would have it. It was great fun, and I loved this tiny little boy dearly.
At that time these little Hot Wheel cars were avidly collected by most 6-year-old boys. Kenny dreamed of them and I yearned to buy him more, but I could not think of a way to do this without embarrassing my friends. Kenny's father was an artist and a lay preacher, and his mother was a housewife who brought beauty to everything she touched. They lived very richly indeed but they had little money.
Then one of the major gas companies began a Hot Wheels giveaway: a car with every fill-up. I was delighted. Quickly I persuaded the entire clinic staff to buy this brand of gas for a month, and organized all twenty of us with checklists, so that we would not get two fire engines or Porches or Volkswagens. In a month we accumulated all the Hot Wheels cars the made, and I gave them to Kenny in a big box. They filled every windowsill in the living room, and then he stopped playing with them. Puzzled, I asked him why he did not like his cars anymore. He looked away and in a quivery voice said, "I don't know how to love this many cars, Rachel." I was stunned. Ever since, I have been careful to be sure not to have more Hot Wheels than I can love.
Many people have too many Hot Wheels to love. It can make you fell empty. A woman who found a new life after having cancer once told me that before she became sick she had always felt empty. "That's why I needed to have more and more things. I kept accumulating more and more goods, more and more books and magazines and newspapers, more and more people, which only made everything worse because the more I accumulated the less I experienced. 'Have everything, experience nothing.' You could have put that right on my front door. And all the time I thought I was empty because I did not have enough."
The change had started with a bathrobe, one of the few things she had taken with her to the hospital for her cancer surgery. Every morning, she would put it on, really enjoying how soft it was, its beautiful color, the way it moved around her when she moved. Then she would walk in the hall. "One morning as I was putting it on I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude," she told me. She looked at me, slightly embarrassed. "I know this sound funny, but I felt so lucky to have it. But the odd part, Rachel, is that it wasn't new, she told me. "I had owned it and worn it now and then for quite a few years. Possibly because it was one of the five bathrobes in my closet. I had never really seen it before."
When she finished chemotherapy, this woman held a huge garage sale and sold more than half of what she owned. She laughs and says that her friends thought she had gone "chemo-crazy", but doing this had enhanced her life. "I had no idea what was in my closets or what was in my drawers or on my bookshelves. I did not really know half the people whose home numbers were in my phone book either, Rachel. Many of them never even sent me a card. I had fewer things now and know fewer people, but I am not empty. Having and experiencing are very different. Having was never having enough."
We sat together for a few minutes, watching the sun making shadows on the office rug. Then she looked up. "Perhaps we only really have as much as we can love," she said.
Over the years, I have struggled with accepting what is happening to my family. How PCH1A has "stolen" things from us - how it has changed Ian, Becca, Brian and I - as individuals, as a family as well as Brian and I as a couple. Going back and re-reading some of my posts, both published and unpublished, has reminded me to be grateful for what I/we have. Sometimes, being grateful for the little things helps. Going through life with a child who has a rare terminal disease has not been easy but it has taught me a lot. I am reminded that the dishes can wait, the dust bunnies can build up, things don't have to be perfect. I've won the gift of love...most of the time. The gift of giving. The gift of gratitude. The gift of understanding having and experiencing are very different. Having was never having enough. "Perhaps we only really have as much as we can love."