Gratitude Story

My eyes open as the blaring sounds of a distant siren wake me from a dream I can no longer remember. As they adjust to the dim room, I notice that the sun has not even risen yet and I can hear the patter of rain on the window. Great. I’ve woken before the sun and there is no turning back now. I’m up.

Pulling back the covers, my body instantly recoils from the chill in the air. One of my roommates turned the heater off last night. Again.

I shiver my way to the communal bathroom where I notice, too late, that there is only one sheet of toilet paper left on the roll and no extras underneath the sink. This will have to make do. I guess. Discomfort sets in.

As I brush my teeth with my long overdue toothbrush, I think about the day ahead of me. Without a car, I will need to pay for an Uber ride to work this morning. Normally I would walk, which is my preference as there is no time in the day for any other physical exercise. But with the downpour raging outside, I will miss my daily jaunt. Guess that means I skip my morning pastry too.

Once dressed I head to the kitchen to scramble up a quick breakfast. I’m already running late thanks to the coffee stain on my favorite shirt. Super. As usual, the kitchen is a mess and what looks like every cooking utensil I need lays in various stages of unwashed in the sink. A piece of toast it is. Without butter.

I can already tell what kind of day this is going to be and my mood shifts deeper into the grey of the storming clouds outside.

As I head to the door, the least troublesome of my roommates walks into the hall. I nod a solemn ‘hello’ and reach for my bag and raincoat. The umbrella is already gone.

“Do you need a ride to work today?”

I stop mid-sleeve. What did I hear?

"Do you need a ride to work today?"

The words repeat themselves several times over in my head. A warm sensation spreads through my chest as I look up at my roommate’s questioning face.

“Yes.” I say with mild shock. “That would be great. Thank you.”

As we drive through the rain slicked streets, I see other unfortunate souls making the trek that I would have had to endure. I bask in the knowledge that my toes are dry while their toes squish in sopping shoes.

My roommate stops the car in front of my office building. I gather my belongs, open the door, and step out into the rain. As I begin to close the door, I remember to turn back to my roommate.

“Thank you for the ride. I really appreciate it.”

My roommate smiles and says, “You’re welcome. See you later tonight.”

I smile in return and watch as the car slowly makes its way back into the flow of traffic.

Turning, I head into the office. My cubicle looks the same as it always does: bland and uninviting. I sit down in my squeaky chair and begin, what I know will be, another monotonous day of pointless typing.

12:35. Lunch hour. Normally this would be a welcome respite from my unending tasks. Today, however, I have forgotten my lunch. Time to stand in line at the (bl)andwich cart and waste 30 of my precious minutes.  

I walk over and take my place in line, pulling out my phone to pass the time with some mindless game that I don’t really care about. 15 minutes later I am second in line when I hear:

“Damn. I forgot my wallet at home.”

I look up to see that my coworker has just ordered a lunch that he can’t pay for.

“Can I bring the cash tomorrow?” He asks the cart clerk, who shakes his head with a firm ‘No.’

My coworker’s shoulders slump as he realizes he will be going hungry this afternoon.

“I have extra cash,” I say. “Do you want a spot?”

His face processes despair, shock, and elation in one moment. “Thank you! Yes, thank you so much!”

I step to the counter, order for myself, and pay for both meals. We spend the rest of the lunch break sharing stories and commiserating over our slightly soggy sandwiches.

The hour ends and we head back to our desks. Before departing my coworkers says, “Thanks, again for lunch. Tomorrow will be on me!”

I smile as I sit back in my chair with an full stomach and something to look forward to.

When 5:00 rolls around, I’m already walking out the door. The rain has stopped and the sun’s rays are dissipating the clouds. As I walk the 6 blocks back to my apartment, I stop by the co-op to pick up a few necessities. It isn’t my turn to shop, however, this week’s designated shopper has been more busy than normal and we need these things anyway.

I arrive home and unpack the groceries then head to the bathroom for a shower. The warm water eases the aches of a day spent sitting. Once back in my room, I think about the events of the day. I find myself looking forward to another lunch with my coworker and go so far as to pencil it into my hardly used, weekly planner.

By 6:30 my roommates have arrived home, surprised to find food in the fridge and clean dishes to serve it upon. In honor of such an occasion, we decide to cook and eat dinner together. A rare occasion in a house of coexisting people.

As we eat, we discuss each of our days and the unexpected turns they took. I find myself fascinated by the stories of the people I live with and hardly know. As the meal fades and the conversation continues, I smile and laugh and welcome the beginnings that are unfolding before us.

Light from the setting sun catches my eye and I look out the window to see the last of its rays disappearing beneath the horizon. The sky has turned shades of oranges, purples, and blues.

I watch the final stages of the sunset feeling a warmth in my chest as I consider the choices I made today. Each circumstance offered me an opportunity and I had the choice to affect the outcome. As the first twinkle of stars become visible I realize the gift that is this opportunity, and smile.

"What will I choose tomorrow?" I wonder with excitement.