Gratitude: Becoming Grateful Enough to Miss the Negative

Gratitude: Becoming Grateful Enough to Miss the Negative

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Most of us live in a part of the world blessed with abundance on every level – food, water, shelter, life’s frills, employment opportunities, and nature’s beauty. Who could deny that we aren’t incredibly blessed?

Who hasn’t walked into a supermarket at some point and looked around in wonder and gratitude for the incredible blessings of abundance found there. We not only have our choice of what we want but in many variations and infinite quantity. We have what 85% of the world cannot even dream of.

Yet there are people out there who complain about this, that, or the other thing. It is my experience that the people who complain the most haven’t experienced the rest of the world, which they perceive as so much better — the classic, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Perhaps if they saw more of the world, they would appreciate what they have.

If you listen to the talk radio programs, you would swear that where we live is a place filled with political corruption, incompetence, oppression, lost opportunity, unacceptable healthcare and a hopeless education system. You name it and we suffer from it. Yet, if we could somehow send those people to another part of the world, I don’t think it would take long before they came to appreciate this beautiful place that we call home. That’s not to say everything is perfect – but we have a pretty good head start.

A Man Who Never Complained

I once worked with a team member in New York City who represented everything positive when it came to thankfulness. Narender had immigrated to the United States to follow his dreams. He married a beautiful woman and had a wonderful home in New Jersey. When he and I worked together, he never had a bad word to say about anyone. (Although he did teach me how to swear in Hindi!) He looked at life with wonder and it was clear from his actions that he was in a perpetual state of awe appreciating everything he had.

He was considered by many to be of pure spirit. By pure in spirit, I mean that he saw the best in every situation and looked for the best in every person he ever met. When a negative situation was put in front of him, he was incapable of seeing anything negative, no matter how it appeared to others. His mind was focused on seeing the beauty in everything and anything that didn’t fit his perception of beauty and wonder in life was literally invisible to him. To give you an idea of how he literally couldn’t see that which didn’t fit his outlook, allow me to share a short story.

For fun one time, we put a small porno movie in the upper corner of the software application we were building and we asked him to review our software to find a “problem” that we had discovered. As he stared at all the screens, we stood behind him almost shaking with laughter, waiting for him to see the movie. All of a sudden he turned around with pride and said, pointing to the screen, “this word is not spelled correctly”. He was right. He never even noticed the porn movie until we pointed it out and then we all had a good laugh.

Losing Didn’t Matter, People Did

We organized a corporate chess tournament and he signed up with many others. It wasn’t until the tournament started that I discovered that he didn’t even know how to play the game. So we patiently taught him. Despite our best efforts, he was soundly trounced in every game.

I noticed that the more soundly he was beaten, the more he laughed. At one point, I took him aside and congratulated him for such a healthy outlook and I asked him how he was able to be so happy as he was beaten over and over.

His response summed up thankfulness perfectly. He told me that he didn’t care about winning or losing. Spending time in the chess tournament was his way of learning something new and spending quality time with people he enjoyed and respected. He also enjoyed taking his chess stories home and sharing them with his wife. This, he said, was the secret of life – making the most out of every moment and appreciating every opportunity.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Narender was on the impact floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. A person who lived such a pure, positive life was physically taken from us.

For about a week afterward, we struggled with trying to understand the meaning of this, how something like this could happen to someone we considered a perfect human being. I then realized that I wasn’t going to remember Narender in the way he died – it was how he lived that was important for his memory.

So we organized an annual charity chess tournament and named it in his honor. To enter the tournament, players pays an entry fee and name a children’s charity that they are playing for. Players from around the world have competed. The top 4 players in the tournament divide 100% of the prize pool between their charities. Since then, our tournament has donated thousands of dollars to children’s charities. Narender’s spirit of eternal thankfulness continues to make a difference every year in the lives of sick and needy children.

Narender’s attitude was that we should accept that life is filled with good and bad. It’s how thankful we are for everything we’re given, and what we do with that which we are given, that determines the quality of our life and the lives of those around us. He was right. Take care and be well.

-Harry Tucker