REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION  from Natural Awakenings, January, 2002, p. 24

I have met some people who go through their everyday lives feeling somewhat distant from their own emotions, just going through the motions of living. I’ve met others who wonder what it is all about, their humdrum activities that seem to lack depth or meaning. It might seem that the nervous and uncertain period we are in right now would accentuate all that, but I think it has the potential to do the opposite. Like a chilly winter wind, I think it can wake us up to an intense-and perhaps meaningful-reality.

Take complacency, for example.

Before September 11, I was complacent, taking for granted whatever was good in my life.

Oh, sure, I was grateful for my health and that of my family; I delighted in my children; I cared about my clients; I was thrilled when my articles would come out. But, do you think I ever gave much thought to the food I was eating? Or my cozy, safe house? Indoor plumbing? Now, I do. I can’t help but think of the starving people in Afghanistan. I’ll bet that happened to you, too. And the funny thing is, I consider myself kind-hearted and empathetic. How come I was never rocked before by the hunger in the world? I certainly knew about it. You see what I mean?

Feeling Alive Is One Good Outcome

I think feeling real, feeling connected, feeling alive is another outcome of this horror. Just like we no longer take our food for granted, we can’t take safety for granted any more either. But the upside of that is that we can soak up every minute of being alive. Knowing how fragile existence really is makes it all the more valuable. And thinking of that inevitably leads us to consider whether we are spending our time as if it really were valuable. I mean, it always was. But now we are acutely aware of it.

Appreciating Our Loved Ones Is Another Good Outcome

Here’s another one: appreciating our families. Countless people rushed home from where-ever they were on September 11 to hug their children. Children who just a day earlier seemed like pains-in-the-neck. Well, are they pains or are they our precious blessings? Don’t say “both”! What they really are is blessings. What we, as parents, do with those blessings is another story. They all come into the world innocent and blameless. Then we get the job of raising them. It’s kind of like blaming the ingredients if the recipe didn’t turn out. People were supposed to turn out good. The cream of creation. And in our hearts, we know that. That’s why, at bottom, we love our children and we rushed home to hug them tightly.

Someone who had moved to New York only a couple years ago and had been complaining about the cold winters and the crowded subways told me she was proud to be from there now. She was touched by the kindness and generosity that she saw all around her. In fact, she confessed, living in New York right now restored her faith in mankind itself. “You know,” she admitted having been right there on September 11, “I think people really are basically good at heart.” That’s an amazing thing to say given the cruelty of the terrorists themselves. To her, they did not represent the whole of humanity or even a significant part of it. So another thing we can add to the list is faith in mankind.

Appreciating our material comfort right down to the basics, such as food, clothing, and shelter; experiencing life as real and time as truly valuable; loving our families with zest; and faith in mankind-these are some of the unforeseen bonuses of unspeakable tragedy. Strange, isn’t it?

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