"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru." -- Charlotte Joko Beck

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Thankful

As we go through our daily lives, dealing with the various workplace “emergencies” and whatever troubles and trials plague our days, perhaps pining for better situations or finer things, the furthest thing from our minds may be to be thankful for what we have.
These statistics may help put things in perspective:
  • If you woke up this morning more healthy than sick, you are luckier than the million people who will not survive the week.
  • If you have never experienced, the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, agony of torture, or pangs of starvation, you are more fortunate than 500 million people in the world.
  • If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more free than 3 billion people around the globe.
  • If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.
  • If you have any money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • The fact that you have a computer, tablet or mobile device that allows you to read this post means you are more fortunate than nearly 90% of the rest of the world. 
  • As a matter of fact, if you can read this, you are better off than 2 billion people who cannot read at all.
With this in mind, I started out the month of November with the greatest of intentions to post on my Facebook page every day something that I am thankful for. Of course, only a few days into it, my time management went out the window and I did not keep up with it. That doesn’t mean I ran out of things to be thankful for. As a matter of fact, if anything, I found even more to be thankful for.
Celebrating 30 glorious years together, my wife and I decided to go on a cruise this month. I am thankful for this gracious, beautiful woman who has tolerated me for so long, and also thankful that we were able to save the money and take the time for a vacation. This November also marked the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the Navy Reserve, and this month is also my birthday, so we had lots to celebrate and were greatly anticipating our time away.

Life hands you surprises, however, and you never know what will be waiting for you around the next corner.
Early in the month, it looked like we might have to cancel our vacation. It started with my having a surprise attack of diverticulitis (a very painful colon infection). Thankfully, it was quickly cleared up and I developed a very great appreciation for competent medical professionals who properly diagnosed and prescribed effective medications. I am also thankful for the availability of those drugs and the health insurance that allows them to be affordable. I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to good medical care nor insurance.

I quickly recovered and things were back on track when our care arrangements for our aging cat went awry. Poor Oliver has several medical issues including hyperthyroid and arthritis, so needs medication on a regular schedule. He also is very skittish of new people, so we can’t just have anyone take care of him. We made special arrangements for someone he knows and trusts to stay here with him, but they had to cancel just a couple of days before our trip. The veterinarian was booked solid, so we couldn’t board him there. Thankfully, friends and neighbors came to our rescue and volunteered to help take care of him. I am so thankful for the wonderful, generous people we have in our lives.
So, finally, we were off on our trip: 10 days of complete disconnect from the rest of the world. Plentiful food, fun entertainment, beautiful weather, and meeting some really great people – all wonderful things to be thankful for. Chancing upon and spending time with some old friends among the passengers onboard was an added bonus. Touring through the Caribbean islands and seeing how some of the locals live in some of these countries made us very appreciative of what we have and brought to mind some of those statistics I mentioned earlier.

While we enjoyed our rejuvenation time, it was not so great for some of our fellow passengers. There were multiple medical emergencies during the cruise, with people needing MedEvac services. One was a fatal heart attack suffered by a man my same age. Tell me that doesn’t make you feel your mortality! Another was our own tablemate who became ill and had to be taken off the ship to a hospital during an unscheduled stop at Norfolk. Kudos to the Captain who had to make the tough decision to divert our ship to help her. This meant a great loss of revenue to the cruise line as all retail sales had to be closed down a day earlier than normal because the ship came into U.S. waters. Now that was an exceptional demonstration of leadership – putting the health and welfare of a single individual above corporate profits.
What was amazing through it all is that people on board were fully supportive. They were more concerned for this woman they didn’t even know than they were about getting their duty-free jewelry or booze. I was thankfully surprised not to encounter any complaints about being inconvenienced.  

At the same time, we were learning about the horrendous incidents in Paris and Bali. It was incredible to witness such solidarity and compassion as crew and passengers joined together to support and comfort those directly impacted. On the final night of the cruise, some crew members led us in singing “Three Little Birds” and “One Love.” Between passengers and crew, we represented more than 70 countries onboard that small vessel, and there we were, all of one mind, sending our positive vibes out to the world, all of our own accord. You could actually feel everyone’s dedication and commitment to reclaiming the humanity and love so brutally ripped from us by the hideous acts of the terrorists.

People often consider cruising as a purely fun excursion, but it is also an instrument of joining people of many nations, backgrounds and beliefs to help make the world just a little bit smaller and kinder.
It’s an experience for which I am thankful... so very, very thankful.

So, for this Thanksgiving, I hope you have found much in your life to be thankful for, too.