The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessariliy of the Davis Clipper.
By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY
“The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning,” said Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti.
This year as we gathered ‘round the holiday table, I asked the family what was the most important thing they learned this year. It made for an interesting and telling conversation.
Often what we learn is based in a hard truth we were forced to confront and sometimes it is a sudden epiphany of self-awareness. This most important thing I learned this year is a little bit of both.
Saying you have found the secret of happiness is a bit grandiose. What I learned this year is more like a small step on a daily path. As I observed those around me, in their varying degrees of satisfaction, there seemed to be a common thread found in those who exhibited the most happiness.
By and large, they were grateful and not just in silent gratitude, but in verbal acknowledgement. Their words were not flowery sermons or noble pronouncements, but merely expressions of “thank you”, “how thoughtful of you”, “I appreciate what you did”.
This ability to be grateful seems to change the way we look at our lives. It is easy to slip into negativity and cynicism, but even a simple word of thanks to someone who holds a door for us can help us focus for a brief moment with an eye towards the positive.
There is real heartbreak, disappointment, and challenges that we all face. Simply saying thanks to someone is not going to make these things disappear. However, what I learned is that for every difficulty we face, there is something or someone who is extending us a kindness. Being grateful for these tender mercies is an important part of a happy life.
By MARK GRAY
I, unfortunately, learned the lesson while attending a funeral. I opened the newspaper one morning to find that my best friend from high school and college had passed away. The obituary was vague; it was a brief sketch of his occupation, his schooling, the names of his spouse and ex-spouse and their children.
Here was a guy who I had called my best friend. We “hung out” together when we weren’t invited to dances. We spent New Year’s Eves together. I often slept at his apartment near the college we both attended. I drove to Sacramento to see him receive an Air Force award. We sang Johnny Cash songs while driving his father’s delivery van and played “bad cue/dumb cue” at billiard bets. He was like my brother (except I never had one); I was like his brother (except his had committed suicide).
Then, for more than 40 years, we lost touch. I’m not sure why. Maybe our wives, who arranged the social gatherings, didn’t get along. Maybe our careers and interests drifted. He was on Facebook and I wasn’t.
I attended his informal “viewing” at the mortuary. His wife was very surprised that I had come. “He never talked much about his early life,” she said. “I’d really like to sit down and chat with you. It is too bad that people lose connection.”
She’s right. In our busy and mobile society, we must go out our of way to renew old friendships. It is my loss that I never knew of my friend’s adult life, his passions, and his judgments. I vow to do better in 2014 after learning that distant memories are not substitutes for human touch.