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Gratitude
A dying friend leaves Richard Swerdlow a generous gift.

By Richard Swerdlow

A friend of mine died recently. He was young, and he'd been sick a long time with HIV. He didn't have any money so he didn't leave anybody much. But he did leave me a gift.

My friend, I'll call him Tim, kept journals all his life. And in his final days when his friend Gladys suggested to him that he keep a gratitude journal Tim rejected the ideal. "What do I have to be grateful for?" he said. He was suffering horribly with his illness, he was flat broke and long estranged from his family. Even his precious cats had to go since he was too sick to take care of them.

Not long after than Tim went into the hospital. He never came out. His friends made plans for a memorial service and started cleaning out his apartment. Tim, a very private man, left instructions that his journals, all those journals he'd so carefully kept for all those years, be destroyed. The journals were stuffed into a trash bag destined for the paper shredder. But one escaped the shredder and sat overlooked by his bed open to the page he'd been writing the day he left for the hospital. So we found one last journal, a gratitude journal.

"I'm grateful to see the blue sky," was all that was written on one page.  

On another, "I'm grateful for ice cream."  

The pages continued. One entry read, "I'm grateful for my friends."  Another read, "I'm grateful for my memories." Still another page read, "I'm grateful for a day I don't throw up."

The rest of the journal is blank, ending abruptly.

I think about that journal al lot. These days, complaining has become rampant with people griping constantly. If I'm sitting in some cafe and I overhear a conversation about relationship issues or someone is going on about how annoyed she is with her new haircut, my mind flashes to Tim and his gratitude journal.

We all have problems, but imagine if instead of complaining everyone really looked around and realized how much we have to truly be grateful for every single day? Imagine what a different world it would be if everyone kept, like Tim, kept a gratitude journal.   

And I will always be grateful to Tim for showing me that.

With a Perspective I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow is a San Francisco elementary school teacher.

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