Ejiro is grateful for the strength to serve others less fortunate.
I move in and out of sleep, not aware of my surroundings at first. I look to the side and see my mother in a chair, reading. I look at down at the IV inserted in my hand and remember that I lost a lot of blood during surgery and the only way to stop my heart from racing and to bring my blood pressure up was to give me multiple blood transfusions. The transfusions were given and visitors continued to visit and after continual care from the nurses and doctors I am discharged within five days. I heal from surgery and within two months I am back to fieldwork.
It is only six months later at Christmas dinner that the full enormity of it all hits me. My mother explains to a family friend in a calm but matter of fact voice that I “almost died after surgery.” I almost laugh in shock then argue that it couldn’t be that bad but my mother goes on to explain everything. Although the conversation changed throughout the evening, I kept thinking about how much I had in my life and that wasn’t counting the gifts I received. That night wasn’t my first time reflecting on and appreciating the people and experiences I’ve had in my life. In fact gratitude has been a lesson I’ve learned repeatedly throughout my life.
I am not quite sure when I first learned about gratitude but there are a few memorable occasions I connect with the concept of gratitude. When I was about eight or nine years old my mother took my older sister and me to a local community organization and signed us up to be peer mentors. While my mother tutored recovering addicts my sister and I tutored their children. Through that experience I learned about how choices impact us and those around us. But I also began to understand that it is necessary to help others and that anyone at any age can be of help to another. In my teens I had a variety of part-time jobs, one was as a house/party helper. Some people especially those in an upscale neighborhood like our own would have found it repellent that their teenager was scrubbing toilets and washing dishes for anyone let alone their neighbors. But my parents thought it was character building. I enjoyed making my own money and it taught me humility and to take pride in my work.
Years have passed since those childhood lessons and as I’ve grown older and experienced more of life, gratitude has come in different forms. My father’s diagnosis and recovery from prostate cancer as well as my own health issues have shown me that little steps are just as monumental as big strides. Every time I exercise, I marvel that at one point it was a very real concern if I would ever be able to walk around a block, let alone complete a full workout.
So I express gratitude daily in different days. Some days I practice yoga; other days I bake a cake for my students or listen to a friend in need. Other days I chat with a stranger in line; volunteer with a local organization or meditated. When a difficult day comes around I get upset but then examine the situation to learn from it and focus on all the things that are going right. Gratitude is a gift but it is also a continual teacher from which I learn daily lessons that influence how I interact with the world and also how I view my place in it.
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