If Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t win an academy award for her performance in American Hustle, I’ll eat my shorts.
It will be a big story.
As I walked out from the movie theater this afternoon with my son, we did the Siskel and Ebert routine we have always done about the movie we just saw. We laughed, critiqued and gave it our widely revered thumbs up or down. Despite the differences in analysis, we both gave the talented new actress an enthusiastic thumbs up.
The crowds roared.
The bigger story, however, occurred to me as we parted ways and I sat down in my car to head home this December afternoon on my day off to do some much needed housework and get to bed before what will be another busy day at work tomorrow.
I should not even know who Jennifer Lawrence is.
See, in a couple of weeks, it will have been a year since I was saved from spending 25 long ones in prison for years of high level drug trafficking. On January 16, 2013, a district court judge–by some divine appointment–granted me grace, an unmerited favor, sending me off on a four year probationary period instead, any violation of which would cancel his mercies and return me to life in an orange jumpsuit until I was 76 years old…and I would never have savored this afternoon with my son eating snacks and drinking cherry Coke watching a brilliant performance by an actress I would otherwise never have known.
At home now, dreading the many thankless chores of keeping my dishes done, clothes clean and floors vacuumed, I’m overcome with thankfulness that I have these things to look forward to instead of another day laying on a hard cot wondering what I might have been doing otherwise if I had been free this afternoon.
I realize that as you’re reading this, you will never enjoy the luxury of fully comprehending this feeling. Good for you on the one hand, bad for you on the other. Yay for you who are blameless. Yay more for you who never got caught. But the truth is, we are all criminals. We are all thankless criminals.
This isn’t an empathic appeal for the imprisoned or a timely celebration of my pardon from incarceration. It’s an appeal to be thankful in whatever your bad circumstances of the day, which may feel like imprisonment but are not.
An unhappy marriage. A cancer diagnosis. A shortage of caramel for your macchiato.
Just three months ago, I was wailing about my inability to gain work and an income. Now that I have a job, I come home exhausted and have on all too many occasions complained to my roommate that “this job is gonna kill me physically.” Funny how today, in a sobering moment aptly placed my life, my perspective is once again realigned by reality.
I realize that many words have been written on being thankful for what you have. Like many my age, I grew up with a mother who nightly reminded me of “the starving children in Africa” whenever I had a portion of cold lima beans left on my dinner plate.
It’s an ugly part of human nature to complain about our circumstances Things aren’t always right and don’t always turn out for the best. During my period of unemployment, when it seemed I was doing all the right things, many nights I went tearfully to bed telling myself “you could and probably should be in prison.” I struggled to gain perspective and find some peace amid the financial distress and pending homelessness.
Coming out of the holiday season, some of us have had the opportunity to gain perspective by taking a private moment of contemplative selflessness for someone less fortunate. I mean seriously taking a moment –out of the spotlight, without Facebooking your virtuous act–and just being there for someone else when only you and God knew about it. Thankfulness is never fully realized until in the quiet of your heart in the face of another’s dire need, you reach out with what you have and experience that humble moment when you know your life is not perfect, but it is definitely okay.
Today, I challenge you to extend your grace to someone privately. Divinely as if the opportunity were appointed for you. Don’t post it or tweet it. Hold it in your heart forever.
Feel the thankfulness and remember it.
You too, might be extraordinarily grateful the next time you are free to spend a day with your own son or daughter.
I’m eternally grateful that the judge somehow heard God’s voice of mercy a year ago and granted me the unmerited favor and freedom to enjoy Jennifer Lawrence today with my son.
I do hope she wins.
My shorts would taste awful.