As I was sprinting through the cavernous Hong Kong airport toward my gate Sunday afternoon, a deodorant roll-on in my bag cracked and leaked all over my laptop.
The laptop is replaceable, but its contents are not. There may be a way to recover my files, but for the moment it looks like I have lost nearly all of the photos I took over my eight months abroad.
If I did, I will be devastated.
I was so happy to survive my back-to-back 12-hour flights today, arrive in Vancouver and check into a nice hotel room for my final night away. But when I took out my laptop to find it dripping with scented gel, my whole world went black.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Today was supposed to be a day of gratitude. By the end of today I expected to be completely in love with where I was in the world. Everything in its right place.
But it turned awful. Unable to shake my angry thoughts, I knew I needed perspective. I needed to find a place in my head where I could see the bigger picture and really understand that my problem isn’t so bad.
So I took a walk, watching people on the street for somebody clearly worse off. Somebody I wouldn’t trade places with in a million years.
I saw businessmen, bums, cops, shopkeepers, hipsters, ordinary joes and schoolkids. And very quickly I realized that there’s nobody I’d trade with, no matter how complete their photo collection is.
I have so much. Tomorrow I’ll wake up on a warm, comfortable bed, and eventually seat my young, able body on a plane. Then I’ll fly back to my peaceful hometown, greet my wonderful family, and catch up with my amazing friends.
Then I will have my whole life ahead of me.
I lost some sexy travel photos. Big deal. There are people in this very city who lost so much more today. How would I feel if my dumb mistake had cost me an arm today? Somewhere, somebody is dealing with that loss right now. That kind of bad day.
Somebody out there lost his home today.
Somebody else lost his best friend.
Somebody else lost his son or daughter.
Even losing a button off a fancy shirt can ruin the day if we lose perspective.
That’s the way to deal with loss: to be grateful. It’s the last thing you’d think to do, but that’s when gratitude is most powerful.
Gratitude is knowing — really knowing — what you’ve got before it’s gone.
The perfect time to be grateful is when you think you’ve lost something huge.
And that’s because loss can help you understand the incredible fortune of still having every single thing you didn’t lose today.
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