Month 3: Live with Gratitude
â€œI urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’â€œ- Kurt Vonnegut
â€œNow I should tell you that here in Chile they have a particular way of greeting one another. First, they shake hands, then they hug, and then they shake hands again.â€ Latimer gave me a hug and a handshake as he showed me how it worked.
â€œThanks for the tip,â€ I said.
â€œIf you are going to survive here, I want to teach you something.â€ Latimer than erased the white board in his office and drew a little dot, probably no bigger than a penny on the white board.
â€œWhat do you see?â€
â€œI see a dot.â€ I said somewhat perplexed.
â€œReally?â€ he asked, obviously not too impressed by my answer. â€œWhat else do you see?â€
â€œI guess I just see a lot of white space and a dot.â€ I said, thinking I had really improved my answer.
â€œAdrian, in life we have a choice, there will always be a clear clean white board in front of us and we can choose to notice the tiny imperfection, the black spot, or we can simply enjoy the practically perfect white board.â€
I soon learned just what he meant.
One of the first cities I lived in was Antofagasta. This city is built on a mountain that forms a big bowl as it descends to the ocean. In the U.S., the most expensive houses are up on the mountain side, but in Chile no bus lines serve the mountain side, and taxi’s are too expensive, so up on the mountain side live the squatters. Completely impoverished people that have pieced together tiny houses out of chunks of ply-wood and card board. There was no plumbing, so there was always a stench in these neighborhoods. This day was particularly hot, but we were helping a man overcome his drug addiction, so we knew we had to go see him.
I had already worn through an entire pair of shoes in my first six months in Chile. Walking all day on those dusty roads took its toll on shoes and on me. By the time we arrived at the top I was sweaty, and completely exhausted. After sitting down and resting for fifteen minutes, we decided to make the final 50 yard climb- the steepest part. We knocked on the door, no answer. We called through the window (as if he couldn’t hear the knocking in their 4′ x 6′ house.) He wasn’t home. What a waste, Antonio had probably relapsed again, and it might be weeks before we would find him again. What a day, with our heads down we began the slow death march down the huge hill. At that moment something caught my eye, and as I peered at the horizon past the large cargo ships making their way into port- and there was a fantastic red-orange glow on the horizon, it was one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.
I stopped for just a second, took in a deep breath, and just stared at the panorama. As I gazed at the amazing burning sky in front of me, I realized that this view was mine. This tremendous display was the big picture, and no matter how difficult things got in my life, I was lucky to be living and be allowed to witness the miraculous setting sun.
Stop for a second. Slow down and notice the big picture, the everyday experiences that give life flavor and make it worthwhile. There will always be black dots to constantly bring us worry, but if we spend too much time thinking about them, we are going to miss the sunset.
The challenge this month is for the Volunteers to focus on the good in life, and savor every minute.
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