Isn’t This a GREAT Day!

One winter when we worked in the Everglades, in the “slow season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was assigned to work a banquet for low-income senior citizens from Miami.  I wasn’t real thrilled about it, because my experience with traveling seniors in a higher income bracket wasn’t the most positive.  While I hate to indict all seniors (even as I am, now, one myself), the majority of those I came in contact with had been whining complainers (except for those in Elderhostel – they were living la vida loca and loving every minute of it).  I remember asking one angry senior one morning, as she complained bitterly about everything that was wrong as I led her to her table, “What can I do to make you happy?” and I sincerely meant it, because she was so miserable, I wanted to help her out however I could.  “Nothing!”   she spat at me.  “All righty-then, I thought,”  and realized she must have been getting something out of her misery to have clung to it so stubbornly.  And I got as far away from her as I could so as not to infect my day.

But I digress.  I was talking about a tiny bit of dread over having to work with this group of seniors.  I tried to psych myself up before the event, and promised myself that I would give them the best service possible …. even if they were miserable.    The first thing I had to psych myself about was their meal:    Their “banquet” consisted of hot dogs on squishy white buns, baked beans, potato chips, and tiny squares of chocolate cake, all served outdoors, in a screened-in patio (The Buttonwood, for any Flamingo-ites reading this) beneath the main dining room.   But, to my utter surprise and delight, these folks were thrilled – thrilled! – with this meager meal of hot dogs.  I’d been serving gourmet meals to guests in the dining room above for a few seasons, and, well, I was almost embarrassed to be offering this flimsy fare to these seniors.

But yet,  every single one of them wore a massive smile, and there wasn’t a pianissimo of protest among any of them, even as many were slapping mosquitoes that found their way in around the seams of the screening.   As I offered another hot dog to an elderly, black, bent-over, nearly toothless woman, she looked up at me and with such genuine delight, exclaimed, “Isn’t this a great day?”   She glowed.  Really.  Over a hot dog.  Her expression of this heartfelt sentiment was so sincere, that it brought tears to my eyes.  She gave me a great gift that day – that enjoying the present moment was an unwrapped present, that every day and every moment can be extra-special and feel like the blessing of Thanksgiving if we focus on the bounty of good that surrounds us and slap away the occasional not-so-good, as if it were just some annoying mosquito. 

And sure, despite this wise Zen master grandma bestowing the secret of life and thanksgiving onto me – simply and without ceremony – I’ve got to admit I’m still learning the lesson.    There are days when I forget it.  But, on most of those days, I just see her smile and hear her in my head saying – “Isn’t this a great day?”  – and I’m snapped back into realizing that, yes, it is, and I am thankful, yet again, for her gracious gift.


About Karen

While loving the wizardry of words, I also love to travel because of that present-moment sense that each day is a gift to unwrap that the experience of travel conveys so well. Other passions include hiking, gardening, photographing, movies and documentaries, reading, writing (I've finished my first novel .... and seeking an agent) and entering recipe contests. Michael and I are both fascinated with factory tours, literary landmarks, and seeking restaurants mentioned in novels - just to see if they exist. Our favorite restaurant we've found this way is the Nuevo Latino-style Yuca ( in Miami.
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3 Responses to Isn’t This a GREAT Day!

  1. Gigi says:

    What a fine experience! And happy thanksgiving to you!

  2. Marcie Lardy says:

    I love that story . I can just see you and that lovely lady. I love how the lesson if we can catch it in time is always in the most unsuspecting moment in time. The lesson is usually so subtle but it shakes you up for the rest of the day! I guess that what is meant by being present in your day ! Love you guys!

  3. Pingback: Inspiration in the Most Unexpected Places from the Most Unexpected People | Start The Evolution Without Me!

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