Good Sunday morning, everyone! The season of giving thanks is upon us. It is easy to be grateful for the life you are living when you see so many others that struggle.

I see it all the time through the United Way office. But we often forget our own blessings when we come across our own hardships. And rightfully so, you should grieve, without it you can’t move on in life and we often get stuck in the victim mindset.

I was blessed recently when I met a young man from our area. He is 30 years old and confined to a wheelchair. He told me he was young and driving way too fast and wrecked his car at the age of 18. He still carries a picture of his car on his phone to show people.

He may be paralyzed from the neck down, but he is still here. If you saw that picture, he shouldn’t be.

I think he, in some ways, carries that picture around to remind himself that his life was spared for a reason. He has a purpose to fulfill.

So, what was he doing when I met him? He had designed his own home and was buying the appliances to it. How did he design his own home you ask?

After his wreck, which I’m sure took years to recover, he still went to college and got a degree in CAD design. He’s fantastic on the computer and works in that field.

He was so upbeat, not letting his situation get him down. And if we think life is hard try to imagine what his life is like. We have troubles figuring out what we want to wear every day and he can’t even dress himself.

Anytime you go through a loss, whether it be your old way of life due to an accident or illness, a relationship ending, a death of a loved one, you can learn to be grateful. But before you can be grateful you have to let yourself grieve and there is no time frame for this, we all grieve differently.

At a certain point though it is up to you to decide whether to continue dwelling on your former life or start living the best you can given your situation. You have the choice where to direct your energy. Focus on the things you can do and never compare yourself to others, because we all know that is never good.

Those things in life that so many of us take for granted, ignore them even, healthy eating, exercise and getting enough sleep our vital to your body and your mind. You must take care of your whole self.

This young man also showed me pictures of cabinets he designed and built for his mother to show his gratitude for her sacrifices over the years to help him. He is truly an inspiration and I told him so.

Does he have bad days? You bet he does. But if you are still here, you are reading this column, you have a purpose.

Be grateful this holiday season, be kind to yourself and give of yourself to others. You are the blessing someone else needs.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone: 442-3512

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