Day 74 Question 74:
What are you grateful for?
Yesterday while I was at the gym and I was reading an article while trekking along on the elliptical (shocking I know). The article was completely opinion-based and the woman that wrote is was discussing how it seems like tragedy, whether large or small, is what seems to make us realize as a society what we are grateful for. She wasn’t speaking for everyone and she even said that a lot of people are grateful day in and day out but sometimes it takes a big bomb or a huge tragedy to stir our memories of what is truly important to us. I would have to agree with her. I wanted to include her article then include a little input of my own (yes, I am sure the entry will be long…you are welcome to stop reading if you choose…but I believe it is something worth the time and hope you choose to stay). Here is her article then I will followup with my thoughts:
Back To Normal
Author: D Anthony, D-Rose Impressions, 10/01, (Revised 06/02)
* Excerpt from the motivational and inspirational book,
The Nurse in the Delivery Room Slapped Me… Once *
We have to get back to normal. That was the popular sentiment. From the President to countless dignitaries, self proclaimed grief and terrorism ‘experts’ and so many television reporters – everyone concurred the most effective way to respond to the horrific events of September 11, 2001 was to simply get back to normal.
On 9-11, America suffered a tragedy of few, if any, parallels. In a well organized plot, hijackers of four commercial planes managed to effectively transform them into fuel filled, flying weapons of mass destruction. The aftermath – two one hundred and ten story World Trade Center towers demolished, massive damage to the Pentagon, the fourth plane crashed in an open field, approximately three thousand suspected deaths, layoffs in numerous industries, declarations of war, a shaken economy, a shaken America.
The days after the tragedy saw astonishment give way to sorrow and anger… then national pride… then a sense of determination. And that steadfast determination could be heard just about everywhere… over the airwaves… from co-workers… from neighbors next door… “We can’t let this act change our lives… we have to get back to normal”.
We have to get back to normal…
I still remember that Tuesday like it was yesterday. What I remember is that as the tragic events of the day unfolded… somewhere between disbelief and grief something else happened. Our priorities changed. Work became significantly less important. People called family and friends to check on them – to let them know they were loved. People went home and talked to their kids. People hugged (I mean really hugged) their loved ones. People canceled unnecessary business trips. Families spent more time at home together. Church pews were occupied. Firefighters and policemen (and women) were recognized – hailed as heroes. We slowed down and focused on the truly important. We argued less and thought about people more. It seems we discovered just a taste of the way things used to be – what our grandparents, and even more their grandparents, meant by ‘normal’.
Maybe, just maybe life’s trials and tribulations are supposed to have purpose. What if these events exist for the purpose of presenting us with the opportunity of choice.
In response to these events we can choose to grow – or not. We can choose to search for meaning… to gain a little more perspective – or not. We can choose to recognize the blessings and people in our lives – or not. We can choose to appreciate each and every day – or not. We can choose to slow down… to spend more time on the truly important things in life – or not. We can choose to make a difference in the world – or not. We can choose to work less and play more – or not. We can choose to strengthen our faith and our compassion. While choosing not to forget, we can choose to funnel our energy… to grow.
Nine months later, and it seems the shift back is just about complete. The truth is most times our memories are of the short-term variety. When we experience pain, we hurt for a while, endeavor to get past it – then return to normal. Usually we forfeit our opportunity to grow.
One incredible story from September 11th is that of a young lady in her early thirties, working in the World Trade Center that fateful morning. Upon feeling the impact of the plane, she left her desk intending to vacate the building.
While making her descent down the stairwell along with others, an announcement came over the intercom. The damaged area had been secured and everyone could return to their offices. Ignoring the announcement, and others changing their direction – she listened only to the inner feeling telling her to get out. At about the fourth floor she felt rumbling. (What she felt was what we could only watch in horror on live television.) The building collapsed around her – and all she could do was ride the falling mass to the ground.
In darkness… in complete and eerie silence was where she found herself. Buried in the debris that was, only seconds ago, the world-renowned one hundred and ten-story World Trade Center Building (south). Was…
With a heavy object preventing movement of her lower body and no light or sound to speak of – she could only yell for help. Those calls went unheeded. By the next afternoon she was beginning to lose hope that
she would ever make it out alive. She prayed, asking God for a sign. She asked for anything that could offer her hope… anything that would give her the will to go on.
A short while later the sound of tapping cut through the darkness. She called out… someone responded. She managed to wiggle her hand through the debris above and a firefighter grabbed it. She was the last person to be rescued from the catastrophic scene.
Watching the still somewhat physically and emotionally shaken young woman tell her story from her hospital bed a couple months later, a tear made its way from my eye. And as the young lady thanked God for blessing her through a mixture of smiles and tears, I found myself wondering… I wondered to what degree her life had changed. I wondered whether she was concerned about getting back to normal. I wondered whether normal had taken on a whole new meaning in her life.
In the weeks following the tragedy, it seemed that our collective anxiety and shaken sense of security caused us to pause and re-evaluate our daily activities. Our pace slowed… our priorities shifted… loved ones knew they were loved… heroes were found in our midst… the simple things in life (concepts like family, compassion, trust, safety, sacrifice, time and love) became a little more important. Our priorities were in order. Home, once again, became the place where our hearts were.
Unfortunately however, time doesn’t compliment a short attention span. Thus since the weeks following the tragedy we’ve steadily regressed to our September 10th perspectives. Importance has again been superceded by urgency… home has again been superceded by work… reflection has again been superceded by trivial pursuits. We no longer speak to strangers on the street… we no longer hug (I mean really hug) loved ones. Our heroes, once again, can be found in stadiums and arenas. Time has become, once again, something we find on a watch.
Thus, while most other voices have quieted, I continue to call for us to get back to normal. But it’s not the normal of today, or of September 10th, for which we should be striving – it’s the normal our great-great-grandparents knew… the normal we were collectively well on our way to knowing in the latter part of September 2001.
I know that’s the way I want to live my life… and that’s the kind of world I want to live in. What about you?
Back to me: After reading this story the thoughts came rushing through my head and I kept thinking about all of the things I am so lucky to have in my life and all of the things I am thankful and grateful for. I am beyond grateful that I have two parents that have never considered divorce and have been the biggest support system in my life (even if they didn’t always understand or agree with my choices). I am grateful to have a sister that is one of my very best friends that I can always count on to make me laugh when I need it the most. I am grateful to have good friends…they may not be in abundance but the one’s I do have mean the world to me and I try to let them know that as often as possible. I am grateful I have had so many people in my life push me just that much more…it has made me grow in a way I never thought possible. Believe it or not I am grateful for experiencing loss and experiencing pain and heartbreak because it has given me the opportunity to appreciate who I am and what I have so much more. I am grateful for having a sense of determination and wanting to keep improving more and more every single day. I am grateful for living in a place where I can enjoy the beauty and the sound of the ocean whenever I want. I am grateful for my jobs and working for people that I absolutely adore. I am grateful for my health…I am working to improve it every day.
The amount of things that I am grateful for far exceeds the amount of room I have to state them. Life is this blessing that we are all given and we are all introduced to these lifestyles of chaos and busyness that we sometimes forget to take a step back and enjoy everything that we have. If you are a parent and you are reading this…stop and take a moment to tell your kids that you love them (if they are grown and live far away then call them or email them a quick note). Tell your bosses you appreciate them (even if you don’t love your job-remember you may never know where someone else’s anger or bitterness comes from) it could change their entire day around. If you are a teenager or a young adult…even if your parents drive you crazy…take one mere moment to tell them you love them. It is so true that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Trust me when I say that the older you get the more you understand where your parents are coming from (and if you do not have a good relationship with them…just think that maybe they are doing the best with the resources that they have). Someone that you love can be taken from you in the blink of an eye and your entire world could be turned upside down. In this life it is far too ease to take for granted all of the opportunities that we have. I have to remind myself of this all of the time and I am taking the time right here and right now to remind you that showing how grateful you are does not only have to come in times of pain and hardship. When you realize that your life is flying by at 150 miles per hour take a moment to stop…breathe in the air around you, soak up your surroundings, talk to your friends, spend time with your family….do something that makes you appreciate what life is offering all around you.
The video I am inserting below is titled The Spirit of Thanksgiving but I thought it would be perfect for today’s post because being grateful should not only come one day a year.