rushing to an appointment midday, i was about to cross sixth avenue at 23rd street. i was actually two steps into the street when, out of the corner of my eye, i noticed an elderly blind man with a white cane standing at the sidewalk corner left behind in my wake. though my earbuds were in and the music up, i could just barely hear him. i turned around.
'can someone please help me cross the street?… excuse me, could you please help me cross the street?… anyone? please…'
everyone, going north, south, east and west, was blowing passed him. many of those people also had their earbuds in. most people were looking down at their phones. everyone was walking at a fast and furious clip.
i backtracked, took my earphones out, and said,
'i can help you. where do you need to go?'
'just across the street. may i take your arm?'
our hands met as i guided him to my outstretched arm, which he took gently. we slowly walked west on 23rd street.
'how are you today?' he asked.
'i'm well, thank you. how are you?'
'just happy the sun is out.'
'me, too. we've been waiting for this…' i said.
'oh, how wonderful the sun feels on my face!'
i nervously narrated where we were (‘halfway there’ and ‘about to meet the curb’) as he told me where he was headed (‘just over to dunkin’ donuts’).
“…but then I was very disappointed at my profession as an architect, because we are not helping, we are not working for society, but we are working for privileged people, rich people, government, developers. They have money and power. Those are invisible. So they hire us to visualize their power and money by making monumental architecture. That is our profession, even historically it’s the same, even now we are doing the same… people need temporary housing, but there are no architects working there because we are too busy working for privileged people. So I thought, even as architects, we can be involved in the reconstruction of temporary housing. We can make it better. So that is why I started working in disaster areas.”—Shigeru Ban in his 2013 Ted Talk. (via subtilitas)
i am, by nature, not a positive person. when i was little, my mom had to take dramatic, didactic measures by sitting me at the kitchen island and setting a glass of water in front of me.
"this glass is half full," she’d say.
"it’s also half empty," i’d reply.
this still goes on today, minus the glass and usually through the phone.
the fact that i’m not overly positive is, frankly, not a bad thing. in some ways it’s served me well. it’s not that i’m negative per se, it’s more that i don’t fixate or focus on the positive. (see above: i won’t deny it’s half full, i just acknowledge that it’s also half empty) but, since my mom is still referencing her glass of water lesson today, i thought it was time to try a gratitude list. a few notes, everyday or so, whenever something strikes me.
this is my semi-coherent list, verbatim from my iPhone, in no order, as of 1.1.14:
hot shower | sweatshirts and elastic waistbands | dad | being from chicago / midwest | remembering to actually attach an attachment | short commute | hot tea | funny / inappropriate text convos w/ amelia | funny / inappropriate impressions by pat | not caring what people think | ina garten | warm site meeting | not getting ruffled by bad service / always tip 20%+ | morning light | evening light | an empty yoga class | opportunities you didn’t see coming | smell of freshly ground coffee beans | getting a massage | not losing metro card | advil | the goldfinch | uber | the meditation podcast | mojo coffee | actually feeling awake in the am | lunch w/ matt (co-worker) | new playlist | andrew as a boss | our apt / neighborhood | good advice from m&d (mom & dad) | laughing w/ gerrit (one of my oldest friends, recently in town) | pizza from wild | deviled eggs from spotted pig | calamari from alexandra | reading a good book | gaga’s blanket (quilt made of my late grandfather’s shirts) | clean sheets, nice linens | long phone calls w/ grammy | inside jokes w/ my siblings | high yielding investments | having an accountant | toyota yaris’ | ”it’s cool” | ”it’s ok” | goat cheese | fitting everything in the dishwasher | remembering my keys | lattes | catching the train, esp. when late | hot chocolate | direct deposit | warm coat | warm apt | sound of running water | cheap bodega flowers | ice cream | kindle | weaving perfectly through a crowded sidewalk | dailymail.co.uk | being alone at the met
what strikes me, aside from the staggering amount of dairy products, is the power of the seemingly small stuff. i hate to admit it, but it’s a good exercise.
back in 2009, my (amazing) uncle was featured in this wall street journal article about keeping resolutions. he still practices his ritual of gratitude today. i realize this is sort of obvious, but it’s a great reminder of the power in simply writing something down - and that small things can add up to something big.
To explore what separates the winners from the losers, I tracked down several people who have kept their resolutions for a while… Michael Haenel, a Phoenix, Ariz., commercial real-estate broker, has for more than a year kept a vow to practice a daily ritual of writing down and reflecting on three things for which he is grateful.
To build a deeper appreciation for the good things in his life, Mr. Haenel has enlisted like-minded friends to help. For more than a year, he has been making a list every morning, in a pocket-sized journal he carries with him, of three things for which he is grateful. Recent entries: playing golf with his two sons; a morning run with his dog; a hot shower; his deep and enduring relationship with his wife; a busy schedule; his ability to learn yoga; the taste of a morning cup of coffee with cream; the look of a full winter moon in the night sky, and simply being alive.
Then, he makes a five-minute phone call every day to one of several friends who have agreed to keep the same resolution, and they read their lists to each other. “If I’m not calling my friends in the morning, they’re calling me, saying, ‘Hey, are you still on track?’ That interaction with another person keeps it alive and keeps us sharing and listening.”
After more than a year, Mr. Haenel has filled two journals with his gratitude lists and is working on a third. "Now that I’m focused on being grateful for those things, I think they mean more, and I sense them more," he says.