In a season of giving and thanks, many of us, myself included, have gratitude that merely runs surface deep. That is to say, we are thankful for the things, people and concepts, which quite often only affect us in the most superficial of ways. I was confronted with this reality, while watching a segment on NBC’s Today Show, featuring the tragically famous case of Charla Nash, the woman who was attacked, mauled, and ultimately dismembered by a friend’s chimpanzee. The radical nature of her injuries, are the type that you might not believe had you not seen them with your own eyes.
As I watched her thank the medical staff who saved her life, I asked myself silently if I would want to live under the conditions and direction in which her life has been rerouted. And then I thought, this time aloud, as I watched her shake hands with only a portion of a palm and a thumb and hug with half of her forearm missing, “She must have to dig really deep for her daily gratitude.”
Everything about the way she lives her life changed in a few minutes. The way in which she interacts with the public, as she now chooses to wear a veil. Her daily surrender, as she must ask for help with cooking, getting dressed and brushing her teeth. When I’m thankful for finding a parking spot close to my destination, she is thankful that her breathing is accomplished without assistance. While I’m thankful for heat on a cold day, she is thankful that she has loved ones willing to help her in all areas of day-to-day operations. And while I replay the words of a recent argument over again in my mind, she has the knowledge that her life will never be the same, for circumstances that are outside of her control… It is after we experience sadness or tragedy, that we can fully taste the sweetness of happiness and joy. Without one emotion, we don’t have the perspective to embrace the opposite.
My heart goes out to Ms. Nash, because I imagine how I would feel after walking a mile in her shoes, but perhaps her shoes are softer and she is truly thankful, on a level that I may never understand, for all of the things that I take for granted everyday.