Throughout the week of homelessness in New York City, Brother and I found ourselves expressing all kinds of gratitude for both the physical and spiritual riches that seemed to shower down upon us.
Each time we received food, whether it be from a shelter or a restaurant or from strangers, we spent a minute or two expressing gratitude and thanking everyone and everything for the feast before us. In particular, much of the food we ate came from the restaurant Pret A Manger, a restaurant that holds itself to a high standard of freshness and donates whatever leftovers it has at the end of the day to CityHarvest to distribute to food banks and homeless shelters.
After eating delicious leftover salads from Pret for a couple days, feeling invigorated from the abundance of leafy green goodness flowing through our bodies, Brother and I walked across a Pret restaurant and felt compelled to stop and thank them for their generosity. I’ll admit – this was one of my brother’s awesome ideas.
We set our garbage bag filled with homeless miscellany around the corner and walked into the store, sporting our beautiful beards. Up to the counter we walked. I recall my brother saying something like, “Hi. We just wanted to express our gratitude for you all sharing your food with the homeless around the city. The last couple days have enjoyed your salads and they’ve brought us a tremendous sense of health and wellbeing. Thank you so much for your generosity.”
As my brother spoke these words, the person working at the counter filled up with all kinds of joy and shined his bright smile back at us in a very loving and humble way. He returned my brother’s kind words with some of his own. “Well hey, we are grateful that we were able to help you all and that you enjoyed the food.”
Then came the completely unexpected surprise, the real cherry on top, as he continued…
“In fact, we have a lot of food here that we don’t even donate and we just throw out instead. Like all these cookies, croissants, and muffins will be thrown out at close. So if you all want to, you can come back in 30 minutes and I’ll bag these up for you and you can have them.”
Brother and I were just about blown away at this man’s offer. Not that he was offering superfoods or vital nourishment, but seriously — free cookies?!?
We graciously accepted his offer and proceeded to meditate on the sidewalk until closing time, enjoying the moment.
As the hour approached, Brother offered to retrieve the abundance we’d been offered. He returned in 5 minutes with two white plastic Pret bags almost flooding over with cookies. Fresh, warm, cookies.
And how did we get these cookies? How did us two homeless chaps commandeer an abundance of some of the most delectable treats in all the world? For free?!?
The intention to genuinely give – a pure intention. We walked into Pret just to express gratitude and give thanks. Nothing more was on our mind. We were simply being in the moment, and felt like giving thanks for the food they shared with us would be a good thing to do. We trusted our instinct to do good, to give, and sure enough we reaped an abundant harvest. We did not ask for anything in return. Rather, we gave freely, and we graciously received.
When we let go of our selfish desires, and instead oriented ourselves to serving the Greater Good, to giving of ourselves just for the sake of giving, possibly making someone’s day, Brother and I found ourselves receiving much more than we ever expected.
We all have the power to be grateful and give thanks to people for no reason at all. As my sister’s birthday card said to me, “Thank you for being.” Being is enough! Just for being – that’s a reason to express thanks to someone. And as you freely give thanks and appreciation to people around you, you’ll also receive so much more. One of the beautiful ways the universe operates, so far as my experience has allowed me to understand, is that the universe supports that which supports it. Life supports life.
Even if you give thanks to someone and they don’t hand you a bag full of cookies, you can rest assured that your expression of genuine giving will return something wonderful. The more we give, the more we receive.