A young man ran to his father one day complaining of problems with work and life. He stressed about the future. His thoughts consumed him every day and night. Not knowing where to turn he asked his dad for help.
His father told him this story, “There was a man walking through the forest one day. He had a sense something was following him. When he turned, he saw a massive brown bear. He took off running only to reach the edge of a cliff. He started climbing down but then looked and saw a pack of bears waiting at the bottom.”
“With nowhere to go, he sat on a ledge and took in his surroundings. Then he noticed the most beautiful flower he had ever seen, sprouting from a crack on the mountain.”
With that, his father stopped. The son cried out, “Is that it? What does that mean? Who cares about a flower, the guy is going to get eaten by bears!”
The father replied, “The point is to embrace being alive, to value every second we have. Good or bad, we must embrace life, not just exist.”
The son, still confused, sat there in silence.
The father continued, “You’ve been racing through life trying to avoid some circumstance. All the while thinking that life would be better when something else happens. All the times you’ve been running, you missed moments that were right in front of you.”
The father asked, “Do you consider yourself lucky and fortunate?”
The son said, “Yes. I guess I do.”
The father replied, “You are. Instead of letting fear and wants consume you, embrace what you have. Act as if you are the luckiest guy in the world because of what is in your life today.”
In that second, his son’s whole demeanor changed, and he gave his dad a huge hug and went on with enjoying his day.
Time is Short
My parents always taught me to say ‘thank you.’ It didn’t matter how big or small the act was, ‘thank you’ was still our response. This response taught me about gratitude early on. But it wasn’t until I turned forty that I started to ponder all that I have to be grateful for in life.
While I hope I make it past eighty, this year’s birthday felt like reaching the halfway mark of a long journey. As I started to consider the time I have left, I began to realize how little I have. Sure, forty-fifty years seems like a lot, but not if I start counting moments instead of days.
Family vacations, Christmas at home, bedtime chats and a thousand other moments are getting short. It helped me realize that I need to make the most of every moment while I can.
A Mosaic of Life
I love to take photos. We could be on a hike, a family vacation or hanging out at home. I always try to capture the special moments. With those pictures, I can freeze time. One day I’ll look back and have a reminder of each moment.
Even with all the photos I snap, I’d say they only capture 1% of my life. The rest of my moments somehow aren’t photo worthy, but every one is important.
It’s not about snapping one picture and remembering one time. Life is about all moments, good and bad, stitched together. What seems insignificant at the time, adds to the mosaic of life. It’s not until we step back that we can see the picture forming.
This family picture might look a little strange. Almost out of focus. But look closer. There are a thousand different snapshots from this year that went into making this one picture. This picture is life.
Like a great photo, it’s easy to be grateful for the big things. But too often I take for granted the little things.
Like so many other skills in life, it’s possible to get better at gratitude. One popular way is to keep a gratitude journal. The idea is to write down one thing your grateful for every day.
I liked the idea but added a twist. I call it 365 days of gratitude for my wife. Each day I will send a quick text appreciating or thanking her for something she does.
The process was easy in the beginning. I didn’t need to give it much thought. By day sixty it got harder. With all the big and obvious ideas captured, I had to start noticing the small ones. This is when the magic started.
Being grateful for small things is hard. I had to slow down and pay attention to what was happening around me. The other thing I found is that it’s difficult to be in a bad mood when I’m trying to be grateful.
Gratitude grounds me and reminds me how lucky I am. Albert Einstein once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I haven’t always been good at living life as though everything is a miracle, but I’m trying to get better every day.