Friday, January 16, 2009

Give Thanks

Yesterday, in response to the news that everyone on the US Airways flight was saved, I was as happy as if I knew someone on the flight. Of course, like everyone, I was glad that people’s lives were spared, but it struck me how personally relieved I felt. Reflecting on that, it dawned on me that we have been living in a morass of bad news.

Here in the United States, we awake each day listening to the number of people who have lost their homes and jobs. They show pictures on the news of desperate people crying, not knowing where their next meal or check or health care payment will come from. We watch the banditry of the rich, like Bernard Madoff, leaving people destitute and powerless over their own misfortune. Violent crime is on the rise. Three people have been shot and killed in my own neighborhood in the last two months.

Abroad, we’re watching wars raging and calamities all around. There was slaughter in Mumbai. Cholera is killing Zimbabweans by the tens of thousands. 200 people drowned in the ferry disaster in Indonesia last week. I read about Afghani girls who were burned by Taliban zealots as they tried to go to school. Bombs continue to explode in Iraq killing dozens at a time. India and Pakistan are gearing up for carnage. The Russians shut off oil to the Ukraine and therefore thousands of families are freezing in their own homes. The Congo fighting teams have split yet again, further complicating that killing vortex. Looming large, like a grand dark cloud of human atrocity, is the slaughter of Palestinians by unrepentant Israeli Jews.

Closer to home, a dear old uncle of mine, my de facto grandfather, is dying a slow and difficult death. A friend of mine recently gave birth to a beautiful child, but lost mobility of her legs in the process. In speaking with her the other day, I learned that not only were they dealing with that difficulty, her husband’s father had been killed in an accident just before Christmas. Also this week, another friend of ours was hit with unspeakable horror when she learned that her mother had been murdered. That was Wednesday.

Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting when I heard that a plane crashed in New York. When I came out and learned that everyone survived I felt like I was swooning. “Give thanks,” I said out loud and to myself. I don’t think I consciously carry around all this bad news, but yesterday it struck me that the cumulative effect of listening to it all the time has left me wanting to hear something good. It is part of the reason that I feel such happiness and relief at the end of each day when my wife and daughter and I are all together – simple, safe, with food and Grace and each other.

They interviewed one of the survivors who, with a shaking voice said, “I’m so thankful that today my daughter still has a father and my wife still has a husband.” I give thanks too, that his daughter still has a father and his wife still has a husband.

That is profoundly good news.

kamau

1 comment:

luvlife0702 said...

good piece.

we always live in a morass of bad news and a forest of good news. i'm thankful for the good news (as simple as being sane this moment) and do what i can to change the bad news and not try to feel others pain because it can make for a heavy heart and aint no point in the whole world feeling miserable. when it comes to life, shit happens. and happens. and happens again. and so does joy. in injury, death, war, peace etc.

i do think that gratitude is so underrated in this country despite oprah's gratitude journals. it's a powerful emotion that can change how we experience our life.

i used to preface a lot of the bad stuff in my life with "at least i'm not in darfur" and that always put my little bullshit problems in perspective. now i think about my love affair with the Nile, my 6 days in a little town on the coast of Costa Rica and the fact that a stay in a mental institution led to the publishing of my first book. gratitude for what is and not for what is not. and i know that if i die this minute, there is nothing left undone or unsaid and not a regret.