Wednesday, August 7, 2013

If Elephants Could Fly

“We know we should be grateful for everything. What if a bird poops on you? Do you have experience of that here? While standing under a tree...?” The speaker imitates , looking up, wiping his shoulder with disgust. “How would you feel grateful for that? Anyone...? Who can answer this?”
35 young smiles respond, shaking their heads, admitting they don't have an answer.
I'm at a youth retreat in Atlanta, sitting on the cool marble floor of the temple room. The speaker is from ISKCON's World headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal.
“A grateful person would consider, 'I am very glad that elephants don't fly.”
We laugh, glancing at each other in the colorful temple room.                                
"Now let me tell you another story of gratitude.” he continues,” A man bought tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic. He was not a rich man. He invested all his savings so his family could have this once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately one of his sons was bitten by a stray dog just the day before the journey. He was unable to go. The whole family couldn't go. The man was furious. The tickets were non refundable. He had spent all his savings for this trip and some stupid dog had ruined their plans..... When he learned what happened to the Titanic, he wanted to find that dog and feed it, to show gratitude.”
Everyone nods in appreciation as Naru Gopal continues, story after story, advising the audience on proper conduct, proper attitude and goals.
This is an easy situation for me to be grateful. My 18 year old son is part of this group of high achieving kids, studying medicine, engineering, some having already graduated and begun their practice. No matter how tight their schedules, they give 5 days a year for this retreat. They organize it themselves, invite speakers from around the world, arrange cooking and accommodations.
On our drive home I notice a sign in front of a church, “What if you woke tomorrow morning with only the things you have given thanks for today?”