Expressing Appreciation

May 1, 2013
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Photo by Douglas Allen

The other night I went over to a friend's house to have dinner.  Simple enough, right?  Little did I know that I would have an experience that would change my life. 

While we were cooking, his neighbor from across the street happened to pop in.  She's 83.  She said right away, "I haven't seen you in a while, George, and I just stopped by to tell you that I've missed you and that I love you."  It was a sweet moment to witness.

They spent some time catching up.  At 83, Jeanne is a woman who laughs easily and is full of vim and vigor!  After some light-hearted and jovial interactions, George finally inquired if everything was alright.  She said that her brother had died a few months back, and she had not been out and about as much.

She told the story of her brother who had MS, and how she had watched him slowly deteriorate.  By the end of his life he only had use of his hands and his head.  One of the last times they were together he said, "It could be worse."

It could be worse.  I repeated that in my head a few times.  Then I thought, "Oh my God, what could possibly be worse?"  I felt a quake all the way to my bones.  In that moment I experienced a tsunami of gratitude flood through me.  I felt an instantaneous appreciation for my body, for my friends, for my family, for the ability to experience the world around me so fully.  In fact, since that moment I have been walking around in a stupor of appreciation.  I've made it a point to tell people that I appreciate them.  When I notice something that catches my eye I say to myself, "I appreciate that."

The thing that has struck me the most, however, is that I feel appreciation for my challenges and for the difficult parts of my life.  I have found myself saying thank you to the uncomfortable moments.  I'm grateful that I have the ability to choose to stand back up after falling down and to make amends.

I have started a list of the things I am grateful for-- a list that will never end as long as I have my hands and my head.