I shifted my bag from one shoulder to the other, doing my best to evenly disperse the weight. My legs were starting to sweat and I was regretting the last minute decision to wear jeans. Never call an audible when you are already wearing shorts. I started to get that impossible to describe itchy feeling you get when the sun is beating down on your cotton t-shirt. At least I put on some good shoes.
I was 15 minutes in to my 25 minute walk. I had set out from my house a quarter of an hour earlier with one thought in mind: donuts. Chuck’s Donuts to be exact. It was about noon on a Saturday and I could almost taste a cake donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. I can almost taste it as I write this. But I never did. Because as I turned the corner towards the mini-shopping center where Chuck’s Donuts is located I was heartbroken to gaze into a dark storefront full of empty shelves. Almost as soon as I saw the darkened “Open” sign I was reminded that a coworker had explained to me that they bake their donuts fresh every morning and they’re only open until they sell out. Of course they would sell out early on a bright and sunny Saturday morning.
I looked around the parking lot to see what else was around. There was a drive through coffee stand with nowhere to sit, and a convenience store connected to the Exxon gas station. I glanced once more at the barren donut shelves and reluctantly walked into the neighboring convenience store. I scanned the shelves for anything close to a fresh cake donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. I ended up with an overpriced coffee cake that was probably made months ago. Awesome.
You see, I don’t have a car right now. For the past couple weeks I have been dependent on the generosity of coworkers who are willing to pick me up for work and even take their car to the grocery store. My independence and mobility has been somewhat limited. Walking to the nearby donut shop was going to be my victorious moment of freedom. As I sat down with my less than mediocre coffee cake I started to feel pretty defeated. It was my day off, and the best I could do was walk to a donut shop that was out of donuts. Nonetheless, I decided I would do what I could to salvage my trip and sat down at one of the dirty tables placed there as an afterthought.
As I sat down to eat my coffee cake and read, I could almost feel my perspective start to shift. I watched countless people come in and out of the convenience store. There were people from all walks of life. All of them had stories. All of them had some kind of struggle. There were a lot of people who walked into that store while I lazily munched on my silly pastry, and there was a lot of hurt that came with them. There were struggling parents, and lonely teenagers, and cranky old men, and numerous people with heartbreaking eyes. And there was me.
Me. A fresh college graduate who is in the Seattle area for the summer working at an incredible church that has already blessed me in so many ways. Me, living with an amazingly gracious couple that has taken me in for the summer and made me feel abundantly welcome. Me, who had the financial freedom to buy a totally unnecessary snack. Me, whose biggest problem of the day was that I didn’t have a car and felt stuck in the comfortable, air conditioned house where I am living for free. Me, who had a legitimately emotional response to a donut shop being closed.
Why am I telling you this? To remind you how much better off we have it then all those poor, depraved people I saw? Absolutely not. Those were all hard working people just trying to find their own way in the world. To confess my guilt about my poor attitude in light of the abundant life I live? Maybe. But more than that I tell you this to speak to the power of perspective.
I left the convenience store with a spring in my step and a quiet smile on my face. My circumstances hadn’t changed. The coffee cake really wasn’t that good. And I still didn’t have a car. But my perspective had changed. That whole morning I had been dwelling on a few facets of my life that I wished were different. Through all of the beauty and joy that could be found in my life, I found a few unfortunate things and made them THE things. And as I honed in on those few unfortunate things, everything else seemed to drift in to the periphery. But when my focus shifted, and I took in the broad picture, the few unfortunate realities became but splotches on the canvas of my life. My circumstances didn’t change; my perspective did.
We can’t always control our circumstances, and I don’t mean to tell anyone that life is not hard. It most certainly is. (ex: I still haven’t eaten a cake donut with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles.) There is a lot of hurt in this world, and to some level, there is nothing we can do to change that. But we can control our perspective, and when we allow ourselves to take in the broad picture, we might just find that its a lot more beautiful than we realized.