Last month, KHJ celebrated ‘BEing 30’ with colleagues, clients and friends who have in some way contributed to an amazing, evolutionary journey over three decades. A newer friend to KHJ came to the party with a little gift. A book called Gratitude by Oliver Sacks.
Thanksgiving week is my favorite, as I atypically take a ‘time out.’ Reading this book titled Gratitude seemed the perfect way to launch the week. Oliver Sacks was a physician and writer who was drawn to study and serve those who were frail and disabled. He wanted to understand the humanity of those whom others saw as unusual and even ‘abnormal.’ His up close and personal experience at a chronic care facility in the Bronx inspired Awakenings, which became the feature film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.
His first essay, Mercury, was written days before his 80th birthday in 2013. Eighteen months later, Sacks was told that a rare form of a previously diagnosed melanoma had metastasized to his liver, and his time was short. He devoted his last months and days to exploring his feelings about life. “It is the fate of every human being” Sacks writes, “to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to die his own death.”
One of the essays, Periodic Tables, reveals the solace he took from the unchanging, indisputable truth of the elements. Every year, on his birthday, he marked the occasion with a reflection on the particular element for that year…hence Mercury on his 80th.
My friend Ann enclosed a note with the book. She took the time to look up the element that represents #30 on the periodic table. It was zinc (Zn). And here’s an excerpt of what she wrote in her note:
“Zinc (Zn) often works in the background, a workhorse, critical for galvanization and therefore, necessary and essential to extend the life of important things. Zinc and copper together create the gold colored alloy brass – something shiny that gets noticed and commands attention…which all seems a perfect description of what I believe BEing 30 at KHJ is all about.”
I was touched by the book, but even more by Ann’s note. For someone to take the time to understand another…to really ‘get’ who they are and what they’re about, that is a gift. It’s the gift of being truly ‘gotten.’
At KHJ, we take the time to understand the people with whom we work – not just our clients, but each other. To understand is to have compassion, and to have compassion is to love. And really, what else is there? In the spirit of this season of giving thanks, I’ll close with words from Oliver Sacks:
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much, and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
Being grateful is indeed the greatest celebration of life.