The Magic of Gratitude
Last week was a bit of a dream come true for me. I had a chance to see the first live appearance (since the start of the pandemic) of my favorite band with my best friends in arguably the greatest outdoor concert venue in the world – Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. The weather was perfect, the energy of the crowd incredible, and the mystical music as soulful as always. We had the good fortune of having seats so close that we could almost touch the stage. When the band played their last song and exited the venue around 11:30pm, we sat there speechless. As I write this, I’m reminded of the ineffable nature of these kinds of experiences. Unable to put into words what we had just witnessed, we began our exit from the amphitheater. Walking from left to right on the walkway that separated the stage from the first row of seats, I was determined to take in every remaining second of the experience. I found myself staring into the eyes of one of the security personnel standing at the front of the stage. Overcome with a wave of emotion that I could only describe as deep, unconstrained gratitude, I approached her and began to speak. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you did this evening,” I said. Noticing that I had pulled out my phone, she asked me if we wanted her to take our picture. “No thank you,” I replied. “I’d like a picture with you.” She kindly agreed.
I thanked her again and continued to walk towards the exit. To the right of the stage was the sound crew. They had removed the curtain that had hidden them from the view of the crowd during the show. As I walked by, I was drawn to approach them by another irrepressible desire to offer my sincere appreciation. “Thank you for all you did tonight,” I said placing my hand on my heart. “You gave us and this crowd an incredible experience that we will never forget.” They seemed to be taken aback and truly touched. In retrospect, I’m guessing the sound crew rarely gets to feel that kind of acknowledgment for their hard work and craft. I touched my heart again, and was about to turn toward the exit, when one of the technicians told me to wait. He reached behind him, grabbed something, and handed it to me. It was the set list – the songs listed in the order they were played in that evening’s performance. I was stunned. An evening that I couldn’t imagine getting any better just did. It was a simple act of gratitude that created a once in a lifetime moment.
This is the reciprocal nature of gratitude. A heartfelt and genuinely expressed act of selfless appreciation can trigger a cascade of miracles. And the paradox is that I never once intended anything in return. The experience of witnessing another human being feeling appreciated was more than I could ever ask for. It seemed as if I floated for the next few minutes as I made my way down the stairs to the parking lot below. So touched was I by the evening as a whole and, in particular, by what had just transpired. It left a lasting impression on me – one that is as present as I write this as it was on that warm summer evening less than a week ago. Gratitude has long been one of my personal values, but it has taken on a deeper significance for me thanks to the people who made possible that magical night last week. And perhaps most importantly, I realized for the first time there are people and things to appreciate everywhere I go if I just remember to simply keep my eyes and heart open for them.
I just learned that the English word “empathy” first appeared as a translation of the German word Einfühlung. Here’s a fascinating article that explores the history and evolution of empathy over the last century.
A quote I discovered this week from the 19th-century psychologist William James. “The human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. In elementary faculty, in coordination, in power of inhibition and control, in every conceivable way, his life is contracted like the field of vision of a hysteric subject – but with less excuse, for the poor hysteric is diseased, while in the rest of us, it is only an inveterate habit – the habit of inferiority to our full self – that is bad.”