Earlier this week I enjoyed a rather interesting discussion with a neighbor.
He is a geologist who moved to Canada with his family from Iraq several years ago and each time we run into each other he reminds me how blessed we all are to live in a country like Canada.
We were talking about stress and he was explaining to me how he frequently feels the need to bite his tongue at work while listening to his colleagues bemoan the stress in their lives.
They talk at length about the stress of their jobs, the stress of meeting deadlines, the stress of ensuring no mistakes are made, the stress of trying to juggle family life and career, the stress of parenting, grocery shopping and pretty much everything else that life offers.
He understands their stress but explained to me that he finds it difficult to relate.
His perspective around stress is remarkably different from theirs.
He said that in his experience stress occurs when you watch her neighbor’s house being blown up by a bomb or when your best friend is killed by a sniper or when you hear strange noises at night and fear that angry, hostile men are about to enter your home and kill your family or when you have to tell your children that it is too dangerous for them to go outside and play or when you have to decide between running the risk of leaving your home in the hope that you will find a store that has food to sell or explaining again to your children why there is no food in the house.
He told me that his coworkers cannot possibly imagine how grateful they should be for never having experienced any of those situations and how lucky they are to be stressed by concerns for meeting deadlines at work.
He understands that stress is not caused by the events in our lives but rather that it is caused by the meaning we choose to place on those events.
And yet, despite his depth of understanding, he says that each and every time he hears a siren, his heart begins to race and he feels panic welling up inside himself for a moment or two before he remembers that he and his family are here in Canada and are all safe.
His story is far more than a reminder to me that what we refer to as stress is simply caused by our interpretation of events, and not by the events themselves. It is rather, a reminder to me that I, and I’m sure many others, do not spent nearly enough time expressing gratitude for all that life has given us.
It is really easy to focus on what we don’t have, on what life hasn’t given us and on the challenges we face as we go through our lives instead of being extremely grateful for what we have.
We may not have everything we want and believe we deserve but for the vast majority of us we have everything, and indeed so much more than we will ever need.
My neighbour constantly tells me how he makes a point of taking time every day to reflect with gratitude that:
He lives in the magnificent country called Canada.
He and his family are safe.
His neighbours aren’t secretly spying on him.
He won’t be shot just for venturing outside.
He won’t be tortured and killed because of his religious beliefs.
He won’t be killed for having the wrong friends.
He doesn’t have to worry about being blown up by a car bomb.
He doesn’t need to live in fear of the police and security forces.
Food is not a scarce commodity.
His children will receive world-class education.
His wife can dress as she pleases.
His family has access to superb medical care.
He can criticize the government.
By voting, he can participate in selecting the government.
He can change religions if he so chooses.
He can question authority.
He can appreciate how unstressful his stressed out colleagues lives really are.
Despite having lived here for some time he still marvels at his new freedom. He understands why so many of his fellow Canadians, never having known anything else, are indifferent to their good fortune and may never truly appreciate the pure joy that can only come from tasting freedom after a steady diet of tyranny.
Do you take time each day to be grateful for all that Canada has blessed you with?
Till we read again.
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