On The Subject of Gratitude

Welcome to my first blog installation on the subject of Gratitude! It’s such a vast topic, and one that I could write about for many pages – but it’s more practical to instead keep my posts to a more digestible size, and simply create a series out of it.

When you think about Gratitude, what’s the first scenario that pops into your head? Is it usually a response to a favour someone’s done for you? … or having something good happen in your life – or even avoiding something bad? That’s where a lot of people initially go. Like, for some reason maybe you didn’t step off the curb and into the crosswalk just at the moment when a car on the other side of the intersection decided to run that red light? Whew! Close call – and you’re grateful for that split-second decision to delay …

But what about a deeper application of Gratitude? Not that avoiding being crunched by a car isn’t deep – it is … and I know this because I wasn’t lucky enough to avoid such a thing back on a rainy Monday morning in 2006 … and I even saw the car, sitting at the corner of the intersection waiting to turn right and be on their way. I saw the female driver, and saw that she saw me … but she was having a very animated conversation with someone on her cell phone – it looked to be an argument, and that should have been my first alarm bell. Unfortunately, I found myself more interested in how pretty her car was … the most elegant shade of cream (although why that mattered, I have no clue) and it was curiously devoid of make and model branding – “… I wonder what kind of car that is? …

This is what was going through my mind as I proceeded through the crosswalk – and not the fact that with each animated gesture she made, her car kept advancing her turn a bit more, crowding me inch by inch. But it did finally reach a point where I snapped back into reality and actually spoke out loud – “hey … I’m still crossing, here!” … but before I got those words completely out of my mouth, I remember hearing her engine rev (never a good sign) and in a split second, I remember hearing ‘thud’ – and while airborne, thinking “… Thud?? Oh-oh, that can’t be good …“.

Well, I’m happy to say that I don’t remember very much in the moments immediately after that … until I heard someone ‘far away’ repeatedly asking me if I was alright. Then I slowly became very aware that my face was actually in a mud puddle and that a small crowd had gathered around. My initial response? Embarrassed … and wanting to quickly be helped to my feet and for everyone to just go away.

Now … you might be wondering what getting hit by a car has to do with Gratitude. Quite a lot, as it happens – but I’ll get to that in a moment. Meanwhile, being helped to my feet by my crowd of on-lookers (not a smart thing to do, by the way), the pain in my now-fractured collarbone had begun to register, and I realized I was having a lot of trouble breathing – it felt like someone was sitting on my chest, and becoming conscious of this was a bit frightening. And slowly, all the other injured parts of my body started registering, although I was still pretty dazed and not quite understanding what had just happened to me.

Later, at the hospital – I’ll skip over all the dramatic parts of the ambulance and sirens and the emergency room, etc. – when the police were interviewing me, it became apparent that this had been a hit-and-run accident. Even though it was by now quite a few hours later, that piece of information really made me angry, because how could someone deliberately leave a person in a crumpled heap on a city sidewalk and just drive away? What kind of person would do that? And I remember being filled with such righteous indignation … until the police officer explained that during this same morning, a total of three pedestrians had been struck in separate incidents on crosswalks across the city … and that one had been killed instantly, a second one had died at the hospital, and then there was … me.

Instant perspective, yes? Wow … to think that the moment before receiving this information, I’d been angry and indignant. And now, suddenly, all I could do was weep tears of Gratitude that my incident had only left me with a few broken bones and some soft-tissue injuries. These would mend, and my life would go on – yes, perhaps with a limp and maybe a permanent distrust of approaching traffic while in a crosswalk … but my life would go on. Gratitude was a bit of an understatement.

So … this has changed my entire frame of reference for what Gratitude means. And in a few of my upcoming blog posts, I’d like to explore this a bit more – because I’ve learned quite a bit about Gratitude since that day. Some of it might deeply resonate with you.

Until then … remember to stay focused on the good stuff in life!