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GRATITUDE. GIVING. GROWTH.

Gratitude synergy transforms an acorn into an oak.

BY HEERA

January 1st, 2021

 

I dedicate this article to one who bestowed me with her light—Ms Lucent [name changed to protect identity]. She is physically homeless, but Ms Lucent’s very being is an abode that carries a fine home’s attributes. In Ms Lucent’s misfortunes—of living in danger, open to every possible harsh-violent element—I found the resolve to forge ahead. And it’s thanks to Ms Lucent that during adversity, my gratitude—which was planning to sneak away to sunny shores—marched ahead of me. Ms Lucent’s life compelled me to look at and be grateful for the factors I took for granted as a child—food, shelter, clothing, education and exposure, which I am sure came at the cost of massive struggles. Ms Lucent’s presence also consistently reminded me that unlike countless others, I am fortunate to have had among other things, access to the basics—running water, a roof on my head, fresh food and feminine hygiene.

Interestingly, during my conversations with the well-read, once well-lived and well-mannered Ms Lucent, I found myself sitting taller and talking calmly (a challenge when anxious). Ms Lucent’s beingness flushes me with a sense of well-being. Only strength and dignity permeates from Ms Lucent, for which I am incredibly, incredibly grateful.

 

 

Broader concepts often start as small details. As a child, on my return to Srinagar [Kashmir, India] after the completion of an advanced skiing course at HAWS [High Altitude Warfare School], Gulmarg [Kashmir, India], I sent—without adult direction or supervision—a thank you note to the HAWS commandant. Days later, I was ecstatic to receive a letter—still in my possession—from the commandant. It turns out that it was the first time a child had written a letter of gratitude to the commandant. For an individual in my formative years, this elegant acknowledgement (along with an invitation to ski, which I delightfully accepted) from an authority figure solidified that I was right in my feeling, thinking and action.

In hindsight, I know that the virtue of gratitude is my disposition, which naturally expresses itself in the spoken and written word and through gestures and gifts. Fact is in childhood, unbeknownst to me, I took permanent residency in a gratitude bubble; it helped tide over the harsh terrains of my life while facilitating my healing and fostering my growth.

 

 

A lesson in gratitude and giving awaited me on a crisp autumn afternoon; as I walked to the grocer—with the sunlight pushing itself with gusto through the wafer-thin leaves—I knew the day promised magical richness. An Ethiopian lady, who worked at the bakery counter, and with whom I chatted frequently, handed me a loaf of warm-fresh artisan bread, insisting, “You will love it.” No doubt the loaf looked as heavenly as it smelt, but I was in a dilemma—first, I wondered why I deserved a whole loaf of artisan bread for free, and second, I had already purchased two halves of bread loaves, one with raisins and walnuts and the second, sourdough. I knew the extra loaf would go to waste. I declined the gift politely, reassuring my acquaintance of purchasing the flavourful bread on my next visit. This generous Ethiopian lady wasn’t having any of it: “Put it in the freezer.” Hugging her, I left with a full heart, fresh flowers and groceries in tow, and richer with an extra loaf of bread spilling with abundance—nuts, fruits and grains.

The loaf of bread captured the Ethiopian lady’s explosion of kindness and goodness, and I knew I had to put this generous gift to constructive use. The universe heard my sentiments and felt my desire to share this wholesome gift—it placed a homeless person on my path. Kneeling, I asked this withdrawn woman if I could give her a loaf of fresh bread; she accepted graciously. In her receiving of nourishment, this dignified homeless woman taught me to remain faithful to my virtues of gratitude and sharing. In this manner, my interactions with strangers forever transformed my outlook, aiding me to evolve continuously.

 

 

Uplifting people are all around us. In my life’s journey, inspiring individuals (humans and animals) arrive unexpectedly, and in seemingly ordinary moments, making the experiences all the more special. On the surface, these acquaintances might appear unlikely—different paths of life, nationalities, ethnicities, age, etc., —but in the moments of open expressions, these individuals unlock new horizons. For instance, a young white American woman, working part-time selling fresh cut flowers in a farmers’ market, piqued my interest in a poet; a middle-aged Ethiopian taxi driver steered me to learn about Eritrea [an African country] and a pair of Italian mother and daughter, by spontaneously giving me a ride to the grocer (in Italy), illustrated authentic hospitality.

I feel blessed to be the beneficiary of others goodness and see the world through their eyes.  Where I see strength in my Korean friend’s dignity and concern for me, my heart smiles at the very thought of an African-American child, riding behind me on public transport, singing without a care in the world. Each interaction validates my outlook: to be genuinely open and curious about people and engage in impromptu conversations. By remaining closed, we become ships passing at night, preoccupied with the meagerness of our lives, existing as safe-shrivelled up buds. A life well-lived is a life that dares to blossom.

In this blossoming, two of my college mates (I will call them Ra and Ze) extended me camaraderie. Moving out of the Indian Army setting to civilian life was a culture shock (The Indian civilian disarray and disregard for protocol ensure I remain in disrelish shock.) and was compounded by attending an all-girls college. In contrast to co-ed schools, where the inclusiveness lifted me, the cliques in college—breeding grounds for mean spirited nature—affected me, negatively. Fortunately, unlike the women whose identities belong to these impoverished cliques, Ra and Ze stood apart—they fostered an inclusive environment. Thanks to their fullness, Ra and Ze made me feel welcome. I have vivid memories of Ra’s rumbling laughter and Ze’s generosity—the pillion on her moped was always up for grabs. I remain grateful to Ra and Ze for their kindness, joy and generosity.

 

 

As you draw nourishment and grow through the course of your life, you must intentionally give back. With the right intention and at the right time, the right people will gift you their attention, knowledge and trust (when the majority reject you); it will validate your passion and commitment and align you with your purpose. Despite their packed schedules, my featured guests (including archived conversations) trusted my intentions and pencilled me into their schedules.

From Gloria Steinem whose voice inspires to Taina Bien-Aimé whose commitment empowers and to Gauri Maulekhi whose passion fuels, I learn from my guest’s expressions. And from the enlightened Sonam Wangchuk to the conscience keeper Gene Baur and the audacious Najibullah Quraishi, the gravity of the issues in which my guests invest schools me.

The education keeps coming in the most precious forms—to observe, to engage and to learn. With their gifts of dignity, relentless determination and unpretentiousness, my fellow human beings, featured in Arteries, encourage me to become my best version. I learn from your work ethic, your spirit and your dedication, as well as your willingness to be receptive. I thank all of you from all of me.

Where loss and agony will forever imbue my being, I have realised that profound suffering is essential to crave a deeper meaning in life, be grateful for the small acts of kindness, and see the richness in diverse acquaintances. Here, I can’t stress enough how the formative years of exposure to different cultures and classes, thanks to the Indian Army, made me open-minded and receptive to diversity, which in itself is a gift.

Open-mindedness makes me appreciate the gift of teachers—from classroom settings to strangers on roads intertwined—whose brilliant lives inject complex notes into my life, adding facets to my being and bringing to life my virtue of gratitude.

 

 

Circling back to the loaf of artisan bread: the grace and gratitude with which the homeless woman accepted the fresh-warm loaf put a spring in my step. On my way downhill, to my residence, I dove joyfully into autumn’s kaleidoscope—caressed by floating gossamer gold, sauntering through jewel-tone rustling autumn leaves. The harvest season, of abundance, is a reminder of our supply chain—to pass on nourishment.

The loaf of artisan bread remains one of the most humbling tokens of affection, reminding me that generosity, gratitude and giving must be cultivated and shared, frequently. I am incredibly thankful to you all—including my readers—for your gifts of time, attention, trust, vulnerability, exposure, emotional comfort, wisdom, laughter, guidance, support and inspiration; your humanity permits me to evolve.

I travel richer through life because you all have generously sprinkled your richness on my life, confirming gratitude synergy is essential to transform an individual from an acorn state to an abundant oak.

With all of my heart,

Heera, The Ascending Acorn