She keeps a gratitude journal.
It was almost time to head to a Cleveland women’s shelter for the twice-monthly book club I lead, and I stared out at the April snow(!), thinking of Nina and her gratitude journal.
I’m not sure I can really call it a book club. After three or four women showed up at each of the first few sessions, it’s now just Nina and me. So we talk about life first and then move into the story and poem I’ve shared with her. I always attach a poem to the back of the story. She claims not to like poetry – though she did enjoy the Maya Angelou piece I chose once.
Over the course of our conversations, I’ve learned some things about Nina. She has children, including some in Cleveland. And she has grandchildren. Nina sees all of them regularly and communicates by phone and via social media. She has a regular circuit of people she visits at the 5th Street Arcade. And she keeps a gratitude journal. She saves them and re-reads the entries to remind herself of how things have changed.
Nina isn’t upset about being homeless. She believes she’s where God wants her to be right now, and when it is time for her to move on, she will know. Though the conditions at the shelter are not great (it’s coming under new management soon), she rarely complains. She has plans – to write books, tell her story and start a business. She spends much of her time at the library doing business research. She exudes a quiet and determined confidence that when it’s time for her to take the next step with her plans, God will let her know. And in the meantime, she keeps a gratitude journal.
When the group’s participation dwindled to one, I thought about contacting the volunteer coordinator and saying I wouldn’t continue. But I enjoy our conversations. As with all good teaching, I learn as much (if not more) from the student than she does from me. During a time when our twenty-four-hour news cycle makes it easy and attractive to join the chorus of cynicism and despair, Nina, a grandmother who lives in a homeless shelter, faithfully keeps a gratitude journal.
So, as I prepare to go meet Nina, I’ll try not to complain about the April snow.
Thank you for reading this, the first entry in my gratitude journal.