It was supposed to be a quick trip to McDonald's and then back to the hotel. Simple and painless. I wasn't prepared for the personal wake-up call.
Shopping all day, fighting the pre-holiday crowds and dodging idiot drivers had worked up an appetite. I waited at the table while my daughter gathered the napkins and ketchup packets. The big screen TV blared the news of the Paris attacks-- four thousand miles away from the U.S. Midwest.
Six targets, mass shootings, and hostages resulted in 130 deaths.
My kid bobbled the food tray and the extra-large Dr. Pepper spilled over the table and dribbled onto the seats. We rushed to sop up the mess with napkins, but I kept an eye on the catastrophe the terrorists had made out of Paris.
And, suddenly, I felt very selfish. In the safety of the well-lit restaurant with plenty of food and my cherished child by my side, I thought about those souls who were scrambling, trying to find the people they'd lost in the mayhem. Those holding loved ones in their laps, bloody and broken. The ones who never saw it coming.
We had grumbled all day about petty things. Traffic, crowds, too-high prices and low-quality merchandise. And these poor people were running for their lives. We take so many things for granted. Gratitude should be our first order of the day, every day. The loved ones we have next to us, covered in sticky Dr. Pepper, could be taken at a moment's notice.
We cleaned up the mess we'd made and finished our meal in silence as the news anchor gave minute-by-minute updates on the situation in Europe. Tomorrow, no doubt, the media would show fences and walls plastered in photos and sidewalks covered with flowers and candles lit in remembrance of those who'd passed away.
Gratitude is defined as, "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." Humans are quick and "ready" to complain and grump. I think we need to be more "ready" for thankfulness. We may not get a second chance to be grateful for what we have right this second.