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Over the Independence Day holiday, Keith and I installed a closet organization system in the master bedroom closet. Some months ago, the original long shelf fell down under the weight of my cedar storage hanging-bag. We replaced that long shelf with a unit that has both horizontal and vertical supports and additional features: belt-tie and shoe racks.

Organization became our declaration of independence, our revolt against clothing chaos. Ironically, choosing discipline and order freed me, for with everything hanging up, I could finally see what I have – and I have plenty.

Sumac BloomingHere in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, the sumac is blooming. I’m not sure if it’s due to the abundance of rain this year, but both male yellow blossoms and female reddish blossoms are glorious. As I drive along, it’s easy to see what I have and to feel grateful for nature’s beauty. In writing and my other activities, it’s easy to connect with people and easy to love.

But what happens when hard times knock on my door? Do I still see what I have and still feel grateful?

In his essay Broken Vessels, Andre Dubus wrote about being hit by a car while assisting others and losing a leg and the use of the other, thus becoming wheelchair bound. Soon after, his wife left him, taking their two young daughters. In the face of these terrible losses, Dubus knew he had a choice.

Struggling with painful operations, infections, physical therapy and depression, Dubus turned more strongly to his faith. He wrote, “…we receive and we lose, and we must try to achieve gratitude; and without gratitude to embrace whole hearts whatever life that remains after the losses. No one can do this alone, for being absolutely alone finally means a life not only without people or God or both to love, but without love itself.” Dubus saw what he had and, to the best of his ability, chose gratitude and life and love.

For our next project, Keith and I are going to reinstall the original shelf in the laundry room so we can store bulk items – toilet paper, paper towel, Kleenex and the like, but nothing too heavy. And then we’ll tackle the garage, so we can see what we have for tools and thank God for having them and the skills to use them.

I have free will to choose when and where and how to do this project called life, but I cannot do it alone. Correction, I choose to see that I am not alone, and I know that I make this choice every moment of every day.

What do you choose to see?

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