The Magic Ingredient

paloma blog

Once upon a time, there was one of those wonderful, and bohemian, golden autumn afternoons. Brussels rained furiously, but the smell of wet pavement completed a cast of vibrant sensations and thoughts.

A glass of red wine, shared somewhere, in bar above a busy street. The sound of raging water on the window panes filled my ears. I saw two children stepping in puddles and felt the heat of the fire in the fireplace at the back of the bar.

A good friend of mine, who hails from the Philippines, sat silently next to me in one of those shared moments of internal monologue in which any word would have been superfluous. Both of us looked through the glass into the street. People stopped at a traffic light. People were walking, and people were running. People were talking on their phones. People were trying to run away from that terribly gray sky. Cars, and the typical frenzy of a city at rush hour, played in front of our eyes. Everything seemed boring, ordinary and common place. But, my friend smiled looking at it. She smiled with that unmistakable smile that only certain chosen nations are graced with.

“What the secret that makes your people always happy?” I found myself asking.

Her gaze left the road, and settled on me. She didn`t seem surprised by the question, but she took a few seconds of abstraction before answering, as if she were touring one by one all the jubilant faces of her countrymen.

“Gratitude,” she affirmed without hesitation. She was still smiling as always, and I found myself savoring this word for a moment, surprised by it’s obviousness. Then she continued.

 I smiled too, draining my glass, and I looked out the window to meet the West. I thought about the many false idols of happiness after which the people of my continent were chasing without ever reaching peace. I thought about a society that demands rights, and forget responsibilities. A society threatened by an individualism that thinks on us as superiors.  And I found my reflection in the glass, and also in her reflection. “Gratitude,” I said under my breath.“The secret is gratitude because simply the gift of being alive is reason enough to never lose hope, and to knowing ourselves to be lucky.”

And, I found myself smiling, too. And, I looked again at the people standing, walking, and running. I stopped watching ordinary people, because then I found them extraordinary persons. And, the rain smelled better. And, the gray sky turned romantic. And, my day was filled with opportunities, dreams and desires. There was hope – we were alive.

By Paloma Cantero Gomez of WYA Spain.