By John O'Leary. This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O'Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired. John's first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold.
It happened less than 30 minutes into the flight.
Our plane hit an invisible bump and we quickly plummeted downward. A loud crash, then the decline violently gave way to a climb back up. More bumps rocked the plane side-to-side, each more violent than the one preceding it. As luggage compartments popped open and items fell out, the captain’s voice frantically urged the flight attendants to take their seats immediately.
The gentleman to my right said loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “I wish they’d told us this would be our last flight. I probably wouldn’t have boarded it!” It was spoken in humor. But there was a bit of truth in it, too.
Moments later the ordeal ended. It was less than 30 seconds of violent shaking. No one was injured, things calmed, the turbulence ended, overhead containers were shut, the flight continued.
I looked at my watch. It was 6:57 a.m.
Having flown more than 1,000 times, in the midst of the shaking, as bags were falling and fellow passengers were anxiously gasping, I tried to look steely-tough, unfazed, unafraid.
In reality, I was terrified.
Yes, I was scared of the plane crashing. Scared of leaving my wife and kids too soon. Scared of leaving this earth with things undone, mission not yet accomplished.
But oddly, the most intense fear I had was the painful reality of how much I’d taken for granted.
As we returned to smoother air, I thought through all the things I’d already experienced that morning that were worthy of being counted as gifts. I quickly typed them down:
This all happened before the first bit of turbulence hit at 6:57am. And I had snoozed through most of it until the turbulence finally woke me up.
I hadn’t paused – not even momentarily – to say a prayer of thanksgiving for any of it.
I didn’t contemplate that throughout the night my heart beat more than 1,000 times by itself, in spite of my lack of effort or gratitude for it.
I hadn’t pondered the gift of a warm bed, my wife’s presence, or my children’s health.
I hadn’t paused to be in awe of the marvel of technology – or the grandeur of nature.
And I hadn’t slowed down to be roused by the promise of the morning, the hope within a new day, the chance to do better, the opportunity to make a difference, to savor, to reflect, to celebrate, to create, to experience.
How To Recognize the “Little” Gifts in Your Life
It seems we most commonly recognize what we have when it’s been taken away. We finally realize how fortunate we once actually were when business enters a downturn, we lose our job, the relationship falls apart, the car won’t start, we get sick, our child becomes ill, or things fundamentally change.
Today, rather than recognizing how blessed and lucky you were when something is taken away, strive instead to slow down, take a deep breath, and open your eyes, your ears, and your heart to the magnificence that is your life.
Allow the momentary turbulence of this essay to awaken within you a profound sense of gratitude for all you have, all you’ve experienced, and all that remains possible going forward.
Then utter a simple, powerful prayer: Thank you.
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