When I was in the fourth grade, I learned an enduring lesson on gratitude. At the time, I was only interested in two things. Television and food. As you can imagine, that meant that my physique left much to be desired, but luckily, I wasn’t too concerned with that at the time.
I went to a private catholic school and my homeroom teacher was Sister Theresa. She was kind and loving but she sure as hell didn’t take any lip. It was the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break and we were having our very own feast! I don’t want to get all George R.R. Martin about it, but there was pizza, chips, soda, cookies, candy, and, most importantly to young Joseph, cheesecake! I had been fantasizing about this cheesecake all week and I anxiously watched as Sister Theresa made the rounds placing a piece of cheesecake on each student’s desk.
When she finally stood before me and placed my cheesecake upon my desk, my heart sank. It was not the glorious slice of creamy goodness I had envisioned, but merely a small bite sized morsel. Sister Theresa saw the look on my face and immediately asked what was wrong.
“It’s just a bite size piece.” I said.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she grabbed my slice of cheesecake, placed it back in the box, and continued distributing to the rest of the class. Eventually, she sat back down at her desk and beckoned to me. As I walked up with my head hung low, I noticed that sitting on her desk sat one solitary piece of cheesecake. My heart skipped a beat.
She asked, “Do you know why I took back your piece of cheesecake?”
I nodded while trying to hide a smile because I just knew she was going to give me back my cheesecake when she was done chastising me for being ungrateful.
She continued, “There are people in this world who don’t ever get dessert. They don’t even have time to worry about cheesecake because they are busy trying to figure where they are going to sleep and how they are going to afford their next meal.”
I began to cry.
“I want you to go back to your desk and think about all the things you have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.” She concluded.
Then I walked back to my desk in shock. I couldn’t believe she didn’t give me the cheesecake! I don’t know when exactly I grasped what she was trying to teach me that day. But, today as I try my best to raise two young boys and help addicts find new life, I often think back to Sister Theresa and can’t help but smile because today I understand.
Why is gratitude so powerful?
Today, I understand what gratitude is all about. You see, I am a person in long-term recovery. Nine and a half years ago, I was dying of a severe addiction to IV heroin and found my way to a treatment center to be separated from alcohol and drugs for the last time.Every day I wake up grateful to be safe and sober. I am grateful for those that came before me and all the amazing people that have come into my life. I am grateful to have my family of origin back. I am grateful for my wife, the two boys we are raising together, and the little baby girl that is on the way. I’m also grateful to be working in a field in which I get to help other people change their lives as well.
I am a Licensed chemical dependency counselor and the president of the Austin Chapter of the Texas Association of Addiction professionals. I am also the Director of Outreach for an amazing program that helps people recover from addiction. It’s called Recovery Unplugged. Recovery Unplugged takes the best practices in addiction treatment and combines them with music and music therapy to facilitate a deeper emotional understanding, emotional expression, and recover!
Today my life is so full of things to be grateful for that I am often at a loss for words.
But, I still think about that cheesecake sometimes…
We are grateful to have this guest article written by Joseph Gorordo, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in Austin.