What spurs me into action today, however, is my new pair of Nike running shoes. Now, if you know me at all, you know I am NOT a runner. Heck, I'm barely a walker - but I'm trying to get better at that. With that being said, I needed a new pair of shoes to walk in. So, I shopped and shopped until I found this lovely black and purple pair (I call them my walking bruises). They are comfortable and not exorbitantly priced (as I don't like spending money unless I have to!)
I tried on several different shoes of differing brands, but in the end, I chose this pair. It just so happened that they were Nike brand. And that's what got me to thinking...
During my freshman year at college (BYU in Provo, UT), though I was thrilled to be there and made many amazing new friends, I got lonely sometimes. In retrospect, part of the problem was that I was suffering from undiagnosed depression (thank you, Prozac, for my happiness now). At that time, without the assistance of medication, the feelings of depression and discouragement were very real and very strong.
One particular night, I remember walking around on campus feeling sad and alone. In retrospect, I see how many wonderful friends I had who would have gladly talked with me, had I given them the chance to really know what I was going through. As I walked, I came upon a slightly sloping hillside near the carillon bell tower. It was dark in this area and I found a grassy spot to sit down. As I sat there crying (I didn't want to do this in my dorm room and risk my roommate or others knowing), I started praying for comfort. For me, prayer has long-since been a source of comfort and strength. After pouring my heart out to my Heavenly Father, I sat and just waited. I waited to see if He would help me feel better. I waited to see how He would give me strength to endure. In my MIND, I knew things would get better (the past had shown this pattern), but my HEART felt overwhelmed and in such pain.
|Brigham Young University, Provo UT, Carillon Bell Tower|
You see, as I've mentioned on several occasions, I came from a very poor family. With an alcoholic dad who had difficulty keeping any kind of job, and seven kids in the family, we never had much. However, because they loved me so much, my parents took time off from work to drive me from our Missouri home to Utah for my first year away. We camped much along the way and saw Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, and many other great US landmarks.
After having moved me and my meager belongings into my dorm room, the time came for my family to say goodbye. I became very nervous. All of a sudden it hit me that I was going to be completely alone. I did not know a SINGLE person in my new surroundings. I felt the emotions that any 18 year old feels at leaving home for the first time. I was especially worried about missing my mom, as she was my best friend and had already helped me through so many rough patches in life. I remember how I teared up and felt this big knot in my stomach at having to say goodbye. After I had hugged the siblings, and then my sweet, brave, strong mother, my dad came to give me the last hug.
Now, I've never made it a secret that my dad and I have had a troublesome relationship. We're probably too much alike for our own good. But, there were times throughout my life when we were able to be close and share special moments, and this was one of them. He hugged me so tightly and kissed my cheek again and again (something that had aggravated me in the past, but was so welcome in that moment.) He whispered encouraging and loving words in my ear and told me he was proud of me. And then, he slipped me a $50 bill. He said, "You might need this for something, or just for fun." I didn't want to take the money. I knew how scarce money was in our family, and I also realized it must've taken so much for our family to have been able to take this vacation to Utah. But, as typical dad, he wouldn't let me give it back.
Needless to say, I did ok. I made lots of friends and loved my new surroundings. This was definitely "the place" for me. But, that didn't mean there weren't occasionally hard days, like that day.
So, as I sat in the darkness, on that lonely hillside, waiting for something to lighten my heart, I heard a familiar church hymn come through my mind. The lyrics of the first verse go, "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done." "Ok", I thought, "I should count my blessings. That's what I should do." But, as I sat there, feeling miserable and depressed, I couldn't for the life of me think of any blessings (not that they weren't abundantly there, but that I was too depressed to think of them). Feeling even more miserable for not being able to think of blessings, I just looked down and began to cry again. And then, like a lightbulb, it hit me! Looking down, I saw my new pair of Nike shoes.
You see, now that I was at college, I was WALKING everywhere! My old shoes were not up to par for this amount of walking and I had needed a new pair. I didn't have money for new shoes. But, then I remembered the $50 my dad had given me a few weeks prior when they had dropped me off. I had put it away for a "rainy day". If the amount of tears falling from my eyes didn't constitute a rainy day, I didn't know of much else that would. So, I had taken that $50 and bought me the best new pair of shoes I had ever owned in my life, a pair of Nike running shoes. They had served me wonderfully!
As I looked down at those wonderful shoes I had worn every day since I'd purchased them, in an effort to count my blessings, I said to myself, "Well, at least I have new shoes." That thought was all I could come up with at the moment. But then, a few moments later, I remembered WHY I had those shoes. I would not have been able to have such a nice pair of shoes to walk all over campus, had it not been for my parents and their sacrifices for me. Being thankful for my shoes led me to my next grateful thought, one that filled my heart and began to let the light shine inside again, "My parents love me. They really love me."
From that thought, I was able to feel lighter by the minute. One thought led to another and I was able to think of SO many things of which I had to be grateful. Pretty soon I was smiling instead of crying. I was blessed with comfort and peace in answer to my heavenly pleas.
So, now, it's 2012 - twenty years from when I started college and had that experience. My dad passed away last year. But, what a blessing this experience has been in my life. As I have continued to struggle with depression on and off throughout my life, this experience has often come to the forefront of my mind and given me strength and encouragement that things would get better. And, they always have.
Now, whenever I see a nice, new pair of Nike shoes (especially when they are on MY feet), I am filled with such gratitude. I am reminded of parents who love me, who have sacrificed more than I'll ever know so that I could have a better life. I am reminded of the hard times I've endured, but that God has always helped me get through them. I am reminded that sometimes the smallest, most seemingly trivial things (shoes) can mean so much. There's a saying that goes, "The door to history turns on small hinges." I love that saying because it is SO true. Every kind act, every small deed, every loving word can literally change a person's life. That pair of Nike shoes changed mine. It helped me stay the path I had chosen. Instead of giving up and moving back home, I was given strength to endure, but not just endure, to flourish!
Does life still have it's ups and downs? You bet it does! But, I'm thankful today for my new shoes and how much they remind me of the paths I've walked and the people who have helped me along the way.