A couple of weeks ago I met a man who completely blew my mind. He was an African American male in his 70′s who had lost everything he owned in a fire just 3 hours earlier. Most of the time when I’m assisting victims of fire, they are scared, sad, anxious, and devastated. But not this man. I was immediately taken by his energy. He was upbeat and positive.
As I began asking him questions, it came to light that he had an annual income of less than $10,000, he lived alone, and walked with a cane. I could also see that he was happy. I’m talking about that internal happiness that few achieve. He was completely at peace and content.
As we exchanged dialogue, one of the questions I had to ask him was how he planned to recover from his loss. He said, “I haven’t lost anything. You see, young lady, while it may look like all my possessions burned up in the fire, I haven’t lost anything of real value. As long as I am alive, I am grateful. And that gratitude can never burn up in a fire. That can never be taken away from me.”
I was speechless for a moment and then said, “That’s an amazing attitude, sir.”
He said, “I can see from your eyes that you are kind, and I can tell from your energy that you sincerely care about me, and I’m grateful. I carry gratitude in my heart. It’s the most valuable thing I own. I’ll carry it until the day I die. Every day on this earth is a blessing, and every moment I live is a pleasure.”
We continued on with the interview. He was the most positive, carefree, happy person I’ve sat in front of in a long time. Finally near the end of the interview I said, “I can tell you have this inner peace and you radiate joy and contentment. Have you always been this way?”
He said, “Oh no, young lady. I’ve been homeless, I’ve been addicted to drugs and alcohol. I’ve even served time in prison. But one day I was done living in the dark. I invited the light of love and gratitude into my soul and it has never left me and it has never let me down.”
I said, “How did you do it?”
He leaned in and said, “It was like flipping a switch. I just decided one day that going forward I was going to leave people alone, stop hurting myself, stop hurting others, and spread happiness and joy wherever God let me. And I’ll tell you one of the secrets to being happy.”
I couldn’t wait to hear it.
He said, “I stay away from people who are living in the dark. If they are negative, mean, nasty, lack compassion, or are trying to hurt or control me, I just say goodbye. You gotta be careful who you let into your energy. Darkness of the heart is a contagious poison that can make your soul sick. You stay away from toxic energy.”
I spent about 20 minutes talking to this man. All he owned was his cane and his attitude, and it was more than enough for him. Before I concluded the interview, I asked him if there was anything he needed.
He said, “Well, all I really want right now is a good cup of soup. Give me a good cup of soup and a heart full of gratitude and I’ll walk this world a happy man.”
When I left him, I felt so humbled and grateful myself. By all of society’s standards this man was poor, but in reality, he’s one of the richest men on the planet. To carry happiness in your heart, to be grateful when you have almost nothing, is wealth indeed.