This weekend the unthinkable happened.
On a typical summer weekend night, friends, couples, families, and teenagers went to see a movie. They bought their tickets, got some popcorn and a drink, and settled in their seats to wait for the movie to begin.
While waiting, they were chatting with their friends, sending last minute texts, or just anticipating the premier showing that was about to begin. None of them considered the possibility of danger in a suburban movie theater. None of them were thinking about their last moments on Earth.
Within minutes of the movie beginning, unexpected horror was unleashed on them. Twelve of the moviegoers spent their last moments in sheer terror before their lives were taken so abruptly, so unnecessarily.
One of the victims, a U.S. Navy sailor, was out with a friend to take in the midnight showing of the long-awaited film. “You expect to be in harm’s way in a combat zone, not in a theater in Denver,” his father was quoted as saying after learning of his son’s death. Another victim was a young woman who had recently escaped a random shooting incident in a Canadian shopping mall. Most of the victims were young adults, just on the cusp of their lives. One girl was only six-years-old, her life barely started.
Seventy other people were injured in the shooting rampage. And there are hundreds, maybe thousands of others who are profoundly impacted by this event though they didn’t have physical injuries — those who lost a loved one, knew a victim, watched the horror unfold, were first responders.
People are suffering, grieving, barely coping with the aftermath of something so inexplicable.
Like most of America, I was glued to the television as the events unfolded. But after a while, I had to turn it off. The random senselessness of it all was overwhelming me. I have three young adult children who will likely see that movie. Until now, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I am so grateful they weren’t there in Denver. I am so desperately sorry for the parents of those who were.
Yesterday I was riding my bike along the river near my house. It’s a beautiful ride, and it was a beautiful day. But my mind was wandering, and soon enough it wandered to the tragedy in Denver. There are 12 people who will never ride a bike again, see the trees, feel the breeze on their skin, listen to birds sing. They will never again enjoy the most basic parts of being alive on this Earth.
When these awful events happen, we are forcefully reminded of the randomness and fragility of life. And at that moment biking, I was reminded that the only certain thing is the present moment.
I brought my mind back to the moment and really saw the trees, felt the breeze, and heard the birds sing — and I was grateful. I was living.
This is what I’ve been able to take away from this horrible event. And it is my wish for you. Be in this moment, right now, and look around you. Appreciate and be grateful for exactly what you have, what you are experiencing.
Here are some of the reasons I am grateful for living:
1. My family and friends. I am grateful that I can talk and laugh with them, hug them, support and love them, share my life with them.
2. My online community. I am grateful for my readers and online friends around the world who have given me a purpose and passion in my work and life.
3. My health. I am profoundly grateful that I am physically healthy, that I have energy, that I can walk, run, hike, ride a bicycle, and function at a high level.
4. My work. I am so grateful that I can do work I love from my home, making money to help support myself and my family.
5. My home. I am so fortunate to have a comfortable, safe home with great neighbors, in a town that I enjoy.
6. My bed. Every night I climb into a comfortable, clean bed.
7. Running water. Whenever I turn on the tap, hot and cold water is immediately available to me for drinking, cleaning, and bathing.
8. Modern conveniences. I am grateful for the conveniences that make my life easier — electricity, appliances, my car.
9. Service people. I am grateful for the people who serve me in various ways — the grocery store clerk, the postman, my hair stylist, a waiter or waitress, my doctor and nurses, the customer service people on the phone.
10. Nature. I am deeply grateful for the beauty of Earth, for the trees, animals, plants, lakes and oceans. I am grateful that I can spend time enjoying nature.
11. The Sun. I am grateful for the feeling of sun when I walk outside, for the light and warmth it provides, and the nourishment it offers living things.
12. The Universe. I am awed and grateful for the wonders of the Universe beyond our Earth, for the continued discoveries by scientists, and the beautiful images of galaxies, planets, and stars.
13. Technology. My computer, iPhone, and Kindle have provided endless sources of learning, enjoyment, and opportunity for me.
14. Plentiful food. I am grateful access to healthy, fresh, delicious foods and for my enjoyment of the tastes, aromas, and experience of eating.
15. My cat and other animals. My cat provides an endless source of love, pleasure, and entertainment. I am grateful for all animals and the unconditional love they offer us.
16. Beauty. I am profoundly grateful for beauty in all of its forms — nature, visual art, music, dance, prose and poetry, theater, interior design, fashion, physical beauty.
17. Medicine. I am so grateful that medicine is available to treat me and my loved ones when we are sick or hurt.
18. Protectors. I am amazed and humbled by those who put their own lives at risk in order to protect us — police, firefighters, military personnel. I am grateful for their service to us.
19. Books. I am so grateful for having access to books and reading and for the years of pleasure and learning they have provided me.
20. Teachers and mentors. There have been and continue to be many people through the course of my life and my children’s lives who have lovingly taught, coached, instructed, and supported us as we learned and accomplished new skills. I am grateful for them.
21. Peace and quiet. I am so grateful for moments when it is quiet and peaceful and I am truly sitting in the present moment.
22. Humor and laughter. I am grateful for the purging feeling of a great laugh, of sharing humor with friends, and the connection laughter offers to everyone.
23. My brain. My brain has an endless capacity for learning, creativity, and change, and I am grateful for all I am able to experience and accomplish because of my healthy brain.
24. Travel. I am so grateful to be able to travel, to experience other people, landscapes, food, and perspectives, and for the learning and personal growth travel provides.
25. Emotions. I am grateful for the intense experiences of love, joy, pleasure, gratitude, fulfillment, peace, and pride. I am also grateful for the contrasting emotions of sadness, loneliness, and fear that also reveal the intensity and profoundness of life.
26. Change. Life is constantly changing, and we are continually growing and evolving as individuals. I am grateful for change and for the many new blessings that every life change affords.
27. Compassion, Empathy, and Forgiveness. When I screw up, fall short, or have difficulties in life, I am so grateful there are those people in my life who are able to forgive me, have compassion for me, and who can relate to my situation.
28. Sleep. I am so grateful that I sleep well and for the restorative power of sleep.
29. My country. I am profoundly grateful to have been born in the United States, to enjoy the freedoms, opportunities, and blessings this country offers, in spite of its problems and tragedies.
30. Life. I am deeply grateful to be alive at this moment, to be typing these words, looking out the window at the trees, the pond, the sunlight and shadows. I am grateful that we can connect to each other through my words and offer hope to one another for peace and kindness in the future.
Please share in the comments how the weekend tragedy has impacted you and why you are grateful for life.