Broken glass sparkled off the streetlight from the ground. As we approached the car, we saw the window was completely broken, and the seat was empty.
A few hours before, my suitcase was sitting peacefully on the seat with the perfect leather jacket I found on sale, the pajama pants I bought from a market in Thailand, the makeup that’s made me feel sparkly for 10 years, and all of the special gifts our family had been curating for my sister’s 30th birthday.
I felt violated and heart-broken. I knew that feeling upset wouldn’t bring back my beloved things and that gratitude would help lift me out of that. But, for the first night, I just couldn’t shake the awful feeling. I woke up every hour to add more precious items to the list of what was taken.
Exhausted and unsettled, I put on a smile and my sister’s clothes for her birthday party. As people started to arrive, gratitude became harder to ignore:
My sister’s friend who let me borrow her favorite shoes
The homeless man who relentlessly tried to help me find my suitcase, when he had nothing
The many friends who offered to crowd-fund to repurchase her birthday presents
My sister’s boyfriend who barely noticed his window was broken, because he was so concerned about my loss
The stranger from my flight who sent flowers to cheer me up
It wasn’t about the stuff; it was about the love, the people who reminded me how much good we have in this world.
I know that gratitude heals – we talk about it all the time. But, that first night, I couldn’t summon it. Not feeling guilty about not feeling gratitude, enabled me to let it come to me. And, we don’t have to rely on just ourselves - maybe sometimes, gratitude takes a village.