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.

Happy birthday to somebody,

Kristin & Lindsay