I pack school lunches every. single. morning.
And I have for nearly ten years now. Last week, as I stood in my kitchen, staring down at the empty lunch boxes on my kitchen counter, I got a little grumpy about having to do it again. “I’m so over making lunches.” But, I cobbled together a collection of leftovers, juice pouches, baby carrots and the cursory apple and sent my people on their way.
Just a couple hours later, I stood at the stainless gates that are my refrigerator and bemoaned that there was nothing I’d like to eat. Nevertheless, I rummaged through and found something to throw in my gullet.
Then I grabbed my jacket.
I headed out to the door.
To the Idaho Foodbank.
To pack backpacks full of meals for nearly 2000 Boise-area kids who wouldn’t have food over the weekend, save for the Backpack Program. The program supplies two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks and two dinners to kids who’ve qualified for Free & Reduced meals. The entire backpack can’t weigh more than six pounds so that a kindergartener can carry it home safely.
The irony in my morning comments set against my afternoon’s activities didn’t even occur to me until I was standing in the assembly line, placing 4oz cans of apricots into the bags as they went down the row. God’s funny like that. The woman in charge of the program told us about one child’s response to receiving food from the program:
I always save my can of ravioli. After three weeks of saving it, we have enough for us to have a family meal.
That’s a small can of ravioli, friends. A small can of ravioli that young boy is saving out of a meager six pounds of food — not enough to share. And he does it so he can sit around the table with his loved ones to share a meal.
To say I was chastened would be a gross understatement. Apparently I have a long way to go in the gratitude department. There appears to be a strong connection between gratitude and optimism:
- Pessimist: I’m responsible for my kids nourishment and I’m weary of the effort it requires each day. I deplore grocery shopping and apple slicing and sandwich making. This costs me money, time and labor.
- Optimist: I have been given the means to provide for my family. Both our pantry and refrigerator are well-stocked every week. We’ve never gone to bed hungry. We enjoy meals together on a regular basis. God has given me more than enough to meet our needs and to share with others.
I mean to receive no glory from sharing this good deed with you today. Rather, I bring you my confession of entitlement. The pessimist in me saw only what I had to do and what it cost me. To learn an optimistic perspective, I am forced to look at the bounty that God has supplied me with and the stewardship it requires. I must set my gaze on what I have, not what I don’t.
Have you noticed the connection between gratitude and optimism, too? Talk to me — add your thoughts in the comments. Would you like to go pack backpacks with me? Let’s do lunch… the right way.
This post is part of a 31 day series entitled “Think on these things: Learning optimism.” For a full catalog of all the posts, visit the first page in the series by clicking here.