The very first time that I was faced with true, deep gratitude was on January 9, 2007. Before that day, of course, I felt “grateful” for small things and always said “thank you,” but this time was different. That day, the overwhelming feeling of gratitude touched me deeply and profoundly.
I woke up in a hospital bed after a surgery. In the peaceful moment alone in the room, I noticed all kinds of tubes and machines attached to my body that I could not understand. This was supposed to be a very simple surgery, but from what I saw, it did not look like one. The doctor walked in and explained the complexity of the situation and how he had to change plans, as the found a cyst that was pre-cancer level 4 by my liver. This small surgery turned out to be life threating and risky, and it was not over yet. The doctor explained that if the intestine did not seal properly with the liver, he would have to install a feeding tube that I’d wear for the rest of my life. He then stepped away.
In that moment of solitude, I shed a few tears. It was fear at first, but then it turned into an overwhelming feeling of peace again. I looked out the window to beautiful Lake Michigan and saw birds flying completely free. For a moment, I mentally transported myself outdoors and felt the wind on my face, feeling the joy of nature.
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As reality reeled me back to the room, still alone, I asked aloud, why did I get another chance? Then, as if there was a voice talking to me, I looked up at the ceiling and saw the words: To serve people. It was a powerful moment of realization, a moment of awe and excitement, and a vision for hope to make an impact in the lives of others. Ultimately, that is why I had gotten another chance.
Since that day, my life has been about serving others. Sometimes it is very obvious, as I donate my time to various organizations. But sometimes it is unnoticeable to the naked eye—it is much deeper than the physical representation, but no less powerful. It is the genuine belief in others and the ongoing emotional support and advice that I never get tired of giving. It is the ongoing inspiration that overflows from my heart to make others happy. It is sending an unexpected kind message, a smile, a blessing to others, a small gift. It is about being alive, being present, and recognizing that gratitude is not just a concept, but also a lifestyle that becomes a catalyst of positivity.