One of the happiest people I know sells hotdogs from a cart located in an abandoned parking lot beside an automotive repair shop. The cart is a basic model, I suppose, not one of those fancy trucks or trailers. Because of his location, which is adjacent to a busy state highway, he does a nice business, but is hardly wealthy. He could be wealthier, but he never works on Sundays. He works at his cart from the beginning of April to the end of September. He then makes his way down to Florida, where he sells hotdogs near a park until March.
I have never seen the man without a smile on his face. It is genuine, the kind that comes from deep within. He is a big man, and twenty years ago, I could easily imagine him as an interior lineman for a college football team.
His regulars (I guess I’m one of them when I am not traveling) will always ask him how he is doing and, without fail, he replies: “I have enough.”
Call Me Curious
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a shy person. I like to talk with people, hear their stories and allow them to share their wisdom. I learn from just about everyone: from 99-year-old great-grandmothers to three-year-olds.
So, one fine day last September, near the end of the hotdog vendor’s “Northern shift,” I arrived at the parking lot to discover that I was his only customer. I ordered my usual—Carolina style with chili, onions, and slaw—and asked him a question I had been anxious about:
“You say that you have enough, but what does that mean?” His usual bright smile gave way to a calm and gentle look.
“Having enough is having abundance,” he said.
I asked him to forgive me for being intrusive, but I told him how much I admired his happy demeanor and how he always seemed so nice and calm. Did it have anything to do with abundance?
He proceeded to tell me he was thankful for everything life had given to him, and even the things it had taken away. He once had a high paying, high stress job with an insurance company. It provided him with a nice home and a new car. It didn’t buy happiness. His marriage failed. The insurance company had a massive layoff in 2007. He was forced to give up his home. Around the same time, he hurt his back in a terrible automobile accident. He laughed that he really did sound like a country and western song.
“But, I was never grateful for anything,” he said. “I didn’t lose any ‘blessings’ because I never felt blessed by anything.”
Then he pointed to a large oak tree (he called the tree his “friend”) near to where his cart was always parked.
“I want to tell you a true story if you want to hear it,” he said. Naturally, as a speaker and author who loves to tell stories myself, I always want to listen.
“I scraped together my last few thousand bucks to buy this cart from a man who was retiring,” he said. “I buried my pride, maybe, but I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie anymore. At first, I was worried someone would see me from my old life, but then I no longer cared. Every day I set up my cart and recited a little prayer, nothing fancy. I prayed that I would sell enough to see me through, and I promised to be thankful. I began to have more than enough. For the first time in my life I felt blessed.”
It was a nice story, and it made me happy to hear it, but there went my curiosity again.
Trust the Timing of Your Life
“What about the oak tree?” I asked.
This part was unexpected. He told me that about four years before, he was permitted to set up his cart in the parking lot even though a flea market had rented the space and did not want outside food vendors. A rainstorm had come over the parking lot. It caused the vendors and customers at the flea market to vacate. Some of the people ran over to huddle under the oak tree.
“They bought a few hotdogs,” he said. “I started talking with them. You know, just kidding around about what they purchased and did the vendors offer a return policy. One thing I was surprised to learn was that three of them worked for an insurance company! Then, I started to talk to one woman in particular, who said she loved attending flea markets and yard sales. The others left, but we kept talking. What struck me was that she was not a ‘fancy person,’ but a happy person.”
When I revealed where I regularly set up my cart, she started to stop by to visit me just to talk, and then one day she brought a picnic lunch. I recognized something wonderful was happening.”
It was growing late, but even in the sunset of September, I could see a tear run down the man’s cheek.
“The first time we kissed was under that oak tree.”
I admit my own eyes were welling up at this point.
“Well, you will have to excuse me,” he said, “but we are leaving for Florida early in the morning. I am blessed. I have enough. Much more than I deserve.” He added: “I hope I see you in April. I am grateful that you are my customer.”
Abundance truly is the result of appreciation, not accumulation. There are blessings everywhere, and we will have enough if we can just appreciate the beauty in even the smallest of gifts that are around us. Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have. Happiness isn’t getting all that you want. It’s enjoying all that you have.
I thank God daily for blessing me with much more than I deserve.