I have been trying to experience gratitude in my life more consistently, and I have a story that often helps put me back on track when I stray.
Some years ago, my sister was facing major surgery. Doctors had diagnosed a rare form of oral cancer. A tumor was growing inside her cheek. It extended above the roof of her mouth. We learned there were few surgeons in the world who had successfully removed a malignancy from such an inaccessible location. Her surgeon estimated they would be in the operating room for more than twelve hours.
I had flown to her city the night before the surgery so I could be her support, her voice, and her advocate in the intensive care unit. She would be there for over a week, most of that time on a ventilator. Her surgeon had recently revised his estimate of the time required for the operation. It was to be closer to twenty hours. Driving to her house from the airport, she shared a story with me.
“I got a call from a telemarketer last night. Usually I screen those calls and don’t even pick them up, but for some reason, I decided to go ahead and answer this one. This woman said, “Good Evening!” in that cheery voice I am in no mood for right now. Then she proceeded to ask me whether I had any cracks in my car windshield! I thought, ‘What the hell?’, but I didn’t hang up on her. She went on and explained that her business would repair the crack in my windshield at absolutely no cost to me! She said that my homeowner’s policy would pay for any necessary repairs! Well, I listened to her for a minute, and then I said to her, “You know what? I don’t have a crack in my windshield. But I am SO happy you called. I was just sitting here, trying to think of all the things I have to be grateful for, and I had COMPLETELY forgotten to be grateful for the fact I haven’t got a crack in my windshield! Thank you SO MUCH for reminding me!”
“That woman must’ve thought I was nuts. She couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.” My sister and I laughed until we cried.
Early the next morning she was in surgery. Twenty-six hours later, she was in the recovery room. It was a miracle she survived, but the outcome was not what we were hoping for. In the weeks that followed, her doctors performed two more operations, one lasting seven hours and another that lasted twenty. A few years later there was another long operation. She remains cancer-free today, but may still require more surgery in the future.
We have gotten a lot of mileage out of that story, though. Whenever one of us is having a rough time, the other will say, “Well, have you got a crack in your windshield?”
Gratitude brings a particular experience of peace that’s impossible to reach any other way.