Grateful 51

Earlier this week, I sent out an e-mail to my North American friends, those living within the USA and those living without. I included a link to American author Jake Lamar’s video on why he’s not disappointed with President Obama. I was quite taken with it as a piece of rhetoric, even if his eye contact leaves a lot to be desired. It’s also just a tad on the lengthy side. Semantically, it was pleasing, convincing, and passionate. But I wanted to know about the content. And, as I’m not in a position to judge, not living in the States myself, and being a trifle more concerned about what’s been going on here of late, I asked my friends, each of whom I trust and whose opinion I value, to comment.

Predictably, some really liked it, thought it made sense. They voted for Obama and will vote for him again. Others had mixed feelings – Lamar got some issues right, and others wrong – they’d voted for Obama and would consider voting for him again but their vote isn’t in the bag. And then there were those who didn’t vote for him and won’t vote for him and think he’s the worst thing ever to happen to America.

The whys and the wherefores are neither here not there. I don’t intend this to be a discussion on whether Obama is the man or not. What I’m grateful for is that I have a diversity of friends who are educated, passionate, and up to date with what’s going on in their world. They shared their opinions and experiences with me, pointed me in new directions (e.g. what’s happening with SB1070 in Arizona;  and is it really 1963 in America again), and gave valid arguments for their reasoning.

The net result is that I now know more than I did on Monday and am a lot clearer about what I’d do were I in the USA and voting. Consensus is not important. I don’t have to agree with my friends for them to be my friends. In being able to challenge their opinions and likewise to have to stand beside my own, is a very valuable exercise. Diversity is key… diversity of opinion, of taste, of reasoning. Surrounding ourselves by like-minded people while wallowing in the same type of information will simply serve to narrow our perspectives and make us more insular.

So, at the end of this, the second week of 2012, I am truly grateful for my friends and their continuous edification; for opening new doors and beckoning me through.

Introducing Grateful 52

Big worlds

Yet another year is over, ready to be classified and filed away for future reference, destined for history books and memoirs of the famous and not-so famous. The first domino to fall as a result of the Arab Spring was Tunisia in January – a momentous occasion sparked 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi who had set himself on fire in December because he was refused permission to sell his vegetables – refused permission to make a living. Egypt followed suit in February while in March, the world watched as Japan was hit by a powerful earthquake and brought to its knees by the resultant tsunami, killing more than 15,000 people and leaving nearly 4000 missing. In April, two billion people watched as Prince William tied the knot with the lovely Kate Middleton – perhaps desperate for a ray of sunshine in what had started out to be a year from hell. In May, Osama bin Laden met his death while the Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladić was finally arrested for genocide. In June, both Syria and Yemen felt the tendrils of the Arab Spring which continued well into summer, unabated. Norway got a taste of terrorism in July as 76 people were killed in twin terrorist attacks.  In August, NASA captured photographic evidence of possible water on Mars and I couldn’t help but wonder if this is something I should be getting excited about? September brought another round of casualties – 240 people died when a ferry sank off the coast of Zanzibar while 100 Kenyans died when a pipeline exploded near Nairobi. In October, the global population reached over 7 billion, minus one Muammar Gaddafi. In November, yet another Martian exploration vehicle (the Curiosity) was launched. December saw a spate of civil demonstrations in Budapest. The complete omission of anything relating to the euro or the EU is deliberate…I just can’t bring myself to go there.


French Peacocks

Little lives
In the midst of all these global events, our lives have trundled along as normal, the routine broken by weddings, births, deaths, mortgages, and graduations. Friendships were made and broken. Many relationships limped along while others caved to pressures they were not strong enough to withstand. We’ve loved and laughed, loathed and languished. We’ve cried tears of rage, of helplessness, of sorrow, and of joy. We’ve watched our elected leaders lead us down the road to nowhere. We’ve witnessed rising crime, racism, intolerance, and hatred. And, understandably, few of us have remembered to take the time to stop, amidst all this chaos, and say a quiet ‘thank you’ for what we have and what we hold dear.

Many years ago I worked with this very bubbly young American girl whom I avoided like the plague in the mornings. I just couldn’t handle her effervescence; I liked mine soluble, in tablet form. Working late one evening, we were chatting about whatever, when she told me that every night, before she went to sleep, she tried to think of ten things that had happened that day for which she could be thankful. And some nights she fell asleep before she reached No. 10.

She challenged me to try it. I was sure that I’d have no trouble finding ten things to be thankful for. And I’ve been doing it every night for the last eight years because it keeps me focused and it keeps me positive…well, sort of positive 🙂

It’s way too easy to let go and submerge myself in the daily horrors of 21st century living. It’s far too convenient to spend my days worrying about global problems that I cannot hope to fix or even effect and in doing so miss out on today. It’s really not all that difficult to lose sight of what’s important – and who’s important – as I spend my time moaning about what might have been. My nightly lists will never be published in a miscellany. David Letterman is unlikely to ask to borrow them for his Top 10. But ranging as they do from the ridiculous (I am grateful that I noticed my skirt was tucked into my tights before I walked out on to the street) to the sublime (I am grateful to Árpád at Kadarka wine bar on Kiraly utca for introducing me to Fecsegő ), chalking them up each night has become a ritual and as close to meditation as I can get.

I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if more people took the time to give thanks – to themselves and to others. Thanks for the little things that make life worth living. Thanks for the people in our lives who keep us sane. And thanks for karma – who, will, at the end of the day, make sure that all wrongs are righted.

Inspired by the inimitable Biddy McD in Australia who has kept the world amused by her photo album Grateful 365 and posted a pic a day of something she and her two sons are grateful for, I’ve decided to be less adventurous but equally committed and focus each week on something I’m grateful for. Introducing Grateful 52.