Finding Gratitude ... And Keeping It

The view during Irma 

By Bob Knotts, Founder & President

The Humanity Project came through Hurricane Irma in fine shape. So did all of us who carry out the work of this organization, including Board members, Leadership Council members and volunteers. We were lucky. Very very lucky, especially considering that the original predicted path of Irma would have taken this catastrophic storm directly over us along the east coast of South Florida. The Humanity Project is based in Dania Beach, directly between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. I would not be writing this blog if nature had played out that way. We wouldn't be here at all.  

The Humanity Project even kept our power during the entire hurricane, which lasted about a day and half in these parts. In the summer heat, reliable electricity is a blessing, believe me. 

Naturally we feel a great sorrow over the terrible damage suffered by the Caribbean islands, the Florida Keys and parts of southwest Florida. And now in Puerto Rico and other islands as well from Maria. They are our neighbors ... and we encourage everyone to donate what they can to help the people of these areas to recover, just as we have donated to the effort. 

But let me make one more suggestion based on my recent brush with a potentially life-changing event. We all have much to feel grateful about in our lives ... and we benefit by remembering this as often as possible. The reality of gratitude and its typically fleeting presence in our hearts hit me again following Irma. I must have said the words dozens of times. So did my friends in the immediate wake of the storm: "I feel so grateful!" And we did. We knew our region had barely escaped the worst. I experienced intense gratitude -- and it lasted for about a week. Then as life felt increasingly normal, I began to get caught up in my own challenges and troubles once more. The gratitude that had seemed so powerful soon faded, little by little. 

That's how it often goes for us, doesn't it? Something happens that reminds us how much of the good we have in our lives: a near car crash, a potential diagnosis of illness that turns out to be nothing serious. Or a storm that could have destroyed everything we own, but didn't. It's easy to feel grateful at these times. What's hard, but I believe very important, is to find ways to hang on to those feelings. 

If you're reading this blog, you have many reasons for gratitude. Just as I do. Beyond the obvious things such as the ability to read, the luxury of electricity and computers and all the modern conveniences, we also have plenty of food and clean water in abundance. We probably have reasonably good health. And friends and family we care about. We have ready transportation and access to schools, universities and libraries. 

But I believe it goes deeper than these external things. Our reasons for regularly renewing feelings of gratitude can include the recognition of our own humanity, as a unique individual and as a member of an extraordinary species whose greatest potential remains yet unrealized. We are here, we are alive and we can make our society a wiser, healthier, fairer and more peaceful place. Every human being has the chance to contribute to this grand project called humanity. We are nature's great experiment, given self-knowledge and gifts both physical and mental unmatched by any other animals. Each of us is a unique combination of characteristics, with perspectives and experiences to share that are possessed by no one else. This is our time, right now. We are here, yes. We are alive. And we can make that existence purposeful and rich if we use it to help others. In the end, this may be our greatest asset -- the ability to become a genuine force for change in the lives of our fellow humans. It is a gift. And it is one important reason to rediscover gratitude each day.