Opinion: Gratitude helped me through hunger and homelessness. It can help you, too.

Materialistic items aside, the love of your family and those around you is what’s important.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A UTA bus picks up passengers in West Valley City, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.

Gratitude. Today many will reflect on what this word means to them.

What does gratitude mean to me? It is a principle that was instilled in me at a very young age. Being the oldest of three, I was always surrounded by family and love. But I was raised by a single mother and, growing up, things were not always easy.

My mother is one who will never show that she struggles. I watched her work tirelessly to provide for my siblings and me, but I remember times when we literally had nothing to eat. At one point, when I was in high school, my family and I experienced homelessness.

It was during this time that I realized the importance of gratitude.

One night, lying on the cold ground in a homeless shelter, I saw tears streaming down my mother’s face. She turned to me and asked “When will this trial for us be over? When will things get better?”

I thought about a lesson on humility I received as a teenager, and I told my mother: “Every trial and tribulation has a beginning and end. We all can better our situation.”

Shortly after, we were able to find a place to live. My mother taught me that no matter what material items we may have in this life, we need to be grateful for what we do have.

Through all this, I was a happy child. Never at any time did I feel like I didn’t have things. I remembered what my mom said, and I was happy and content with what I did have.

What did I have? My family. That’s all that mattered to me.

That’s where my experience with gratitude came into play. Since those years, I chose to appreciate all that I do have in my life. I have my health. I have a fantastic and amazing job with the Utah Transit Authority, I have the love of a beautiful woman. I have people who care about me.

What more can I be grateful for?

This is the thinking I take to social media to uplift and inspire others. I want everyone to understand what my mom instilled in me: Be grateful for what you have.

Materialistic items aside, the love of your family and those around you is what’s important. As a UTA bus operator, I make it my daily goal to make sure all those who I encounter know that I am grateful for them — not only as a passenger but as a human.

Gratitude is special to me. It’s one of the fundamental emotions that makes me “Uncle Maui.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. We are all victims of it. But I feel the more we practice this principle of being grateful for what we do have and not focusing on what we want, the world will be a kinder place.

Showing love, gratitude and service to others is what truly makes me happy.

Josh Memea

Josh “Uncle Maui” Memea, is a 40-year-old bus operator for Utah Transit Authority. You can follow him on X at @UncleMaui1983.

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