I was on the subway last week and observed a man in a business suit get on one of the trains, look around briefly at the seats which happened to be all full, and give a disgusted little huff like someone had insulted him. I thought his reaction was astonishingly self-centred, like no one on the train deserved a comfortable place to sit as much as he did.
Two days later I found myself on that same metro line, riding down to my French class early one morning. I was tired and not quite awake and just wanted to sit alone and read a book and not be jostled or have to stand pressed against other commuters. I happened to catch the train before it filled up and got a seat at the end of the car, away from the rest of the people; my most favourite seat. I love this seat, my special seat, I thought to myself. And then I realised how silly that sounded.
That was not my seat. Hundreds of people sat in that seat every day. I planted my bum on it for 15 minutes that day, but that hardly made it mine. I was just a traveller, a momentary sojourner, and many had come before me and many would come after me. I had no particular claim on that seat, even though I was especially happy to be in it that morning. Yep, I was pretty much like the man in the suit with the huffy attitude. Perhaps he also thought that there was a seat that was his, a train car that he owned a part of in some way, if only because he happened to be in a certain place at a certain time and wanted things to go well for him.
Most days I do wish the world would be more accommodating to me, but in truth, I am just passing through and I am slowly beginning to realise that my expectations are often unrealistic and embarrassingly ego-centric. The huffs I heave as I travel along are not self-righteous; they reveal how impatient and childish I can be as I claim things as "mine" that I really have no right to grasp at. I have had no part in building any of this - I share this world, this space, and this time with millions of others.
Dean was telling me about a podcast he heard about thankfulness the other day. The speaker was talking about how the early saints were examples of this grace, how even in their suffering and in the midst of some pretty horrible persecution, they exhibited an attitude of joyfulness at being given the gift of living for one more day, no matter how painful it might be. This life is a gift and no matter what hard things come with it, it is still a gift and we should be thankful for each moment which we are given. I think they knew a bit more about real joy than we do in our consumer-driven world.
This life is not mine, that I should demand things go a certain way - it is a gift. Each day is not mine, that I should expect a certain measure of happiness and success to be bestowed on me just for showing up - it is a gift. The seat on the metro is not mine, that I should imagine my name stamped on it and always reserved for my comfort when I have want of it - it is a gift to be shared with many.
May I be free from that all too funny and horribly familiar incessant cry (mine, mine, mine, mine) of the seagulls in Finding Nemo. It is not mine. And the sooner I realise that, the more true thankfulness can burst forth in my life.
This is the ever generous and giving Nelly, always thankful to see everyone.