“We’re sorry Miss Manske, but it looks like this flight has been overbooked. Would you be interested in taking the Air Canada flight into Vancouver instead? It flies out about twenty minutes earlier, and it looks like they have open seats.” The Singapore Airlines agent looked up with a confident but sympathetic smile.
“Sure. Whatever works.” I smiled back, hiding the sting of disappointment. It was going to be my first, and likely only, flight on one of the world’s highest reputed airlines. I was so close.
“If you don’t mind waiting near the desk, we’ll check in our other guests and see what we can work out. Perhaps we won’t have to make any changes, but we appreciate your understanding and assistance.”
“No problem.” It wasn’t a total lie. After all, my black eye was starting to clear up, I was headed home, and I was alive.
Two weeks before I was laying in the back of a pickup truck with a Balinese Shaman, my friend Katie, and a good 20 percent of my skin peeled off from road rash. Not to mention two half moon gashes under my eyes from where my sunglasses sliced into my flesh. Changing flights, in comparison, seemed, well, unproblematic.
I have had many incidents in life that have “woken me up”, so to speak, to what matters. That have made me feel grateful. My motorcycle crash in Bali was but one of them.
But there’s something significant I took from that particular occurrence. Everything in life is an opportunity to be thankful. Be it a free coffee from a stranger in line at Starbucks (I’ve heard these things actually happen, to real people), or a prognosis from the doctor that you have terminal cancer and six months to live, we have the chance to pull from the experience one vital truth – we are lucky for every precious moment of our lives.
And the way to remember this is to pay attention to the details. This morning, for example, I woke and low and behold, I had a husband beside me. This doesn’t happen all that often, so it was easy to feel that blissful surge of thanks. Then my daughter climbed in, followed by two tiny, stinky dogs armed with kisses. Morning snuggles. Details.
Those are easy ones. But since it’s Thanksgiving, I tried to keep the ball rolling. There was the garbage can full of fruit flies, reminding me that it’s still warm enough here for them to survive. My runny nose, made possible by an immune system that has transformed last week’s body aches and sore throat into a mild drip. A stinky kitchen, retelling the delicious Indian dinner experience we had the night before.
There are a plethora of benefits to gratitude. People who regularly acknowledge thanks tend to feel more positive emotions, contributing to greater happiness, less stress, adaptability and the ability to cope easier with diversity, the enjoyment of deeper relationships and maintenance of a higher level of physical health.
But most of us don’t need to be convinced. We just need to be reminded. And that’s really what holidays are for – slowing down and remembering.
They did end up getting me on that flight. And after discovering someone in my original seat, and waiting in the jumper seat while everyone boarded and they “sorted out where to put me”, I was accorded executive class on Singapore Airlines. And I can tell you, I was grateful for every free scoop of caviar I relished on that twelve-hour flight.