Living with gratitude is always my intention. Sometimes I need a nudge—or even a shove to move off the path of grumbling onto the high road of gratitude, where my view expands, my focus shifts and life blossoms with fresh sweetness.
Have you ever had a neighbour who was a true friend, someone who could, and eagerly would, hold all of life’s small moments, gifts and troubles in a vault of trust? I dreamed of such a friend for decades when I moved into my condo, Suite 1001, right next door to Joyce in 1003. Our balconies, off our kitchens, were separated only by a sheet of frosted glass.
When the phone rang at my place, the conversation began without preamble.
“I had the kids over last night and have chicken soup left over. Do you want some for dinner?”
“Sure, thanks. I have extra green onions and some spinach that needs using in your salad. I’ll meet you at the balcony.”
Way beyond the exchange of food, the golden lining of this friendship was the hundreds of miles we walked through Osborne Village over 15 years, sharing the secrets of our lives, past and present mingled with wondering, worrying, reciting poetry and dreaming of future.
Joyce has the confidence of a dozen of me. Born in a large, north end Jewish family in Winnipeg in 1930, she still turns heads when she walks into a room. I came along in 1946, the middle of three kids from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Joyce became my life coach, mentor, role model, and right next-door wise sister.
“Stand up straight, you’re slumping,” she nudges, placing her hand on my lower back as we walk down Osborne Street. “People will place on you the value you place on yourself!”
Today as I wiped up the ever-present trail of crumbs left by my husband Ted between the toaster and the kitchen island where we eat, I re-lived a lesson Joyce taught me about gratitude, one I hope I’ll never forget. I complained one day on our walk to the Safeway about the crumbs I was always cleaning up. Joyce, uncharacteristically harsh, put her hand out and stopped me in my tracks.
“Just shut up. Do you have any idea what I would give to be able to clean up Tom’s crumbs just one more time?” her jaw firmly set, her eyes wet.
Her husband Tom’s death from cancer a few years ago left my strong friend bereft. Her message rang through me, loud and clear. At the top of my list of appreciation today is a friend whose honesty was a larger gift than her empathy, shoving me back on course, in the life-giving direction of viewing the world with eyes of gratitude.
Listen to Joanne Klassen read “Crumbs and gratitude” here:
Dedicated to Joyce Shimoji, my unsung hero
© Joanne Klassen, May 17, 2017 Winnipeg