By Clarence Thomas
There have been a few defining moments in my life. I’m talking about those moments that immediately change a person’s life in a positive way. For me, one such moment was in January, 2003. I had been living and working in Afghanistan for a little over two months. I worked the nightshift, so every night I would go into the old Afghani airport terminal that was inside of the American military base where I worked. It was very warm in there, and there were a lot of snacks and good books. So it was a pretty cool place to pass the time.
There was also a hospital inside of the terminal. So sometimes I would see some pretty horrible things, especially because we were inside of a war zone. One night I saw a very young Afghani boy that literally looked like he should have not been alive. To this day, I’ve never seen a person that looked so bad in my life. He was extremely skinny, and had black rings under his eyes. His left arm was so swollen from infection, that is was nearly the same size as his waste. I couldn’t bear to look at him, and I couldn’t look away.
The American doctor told me that they boy had fallen while playing on some very large and jagged rocks. His family spoke with the village elder, who told them to pack the wound with mud, hay, and some other things that are too disgusting to even repeat. So the family listened, and of course the boy’s arm became infected to the point that he passed out. He was rushed to the hospital on Kandahar Air Base, and that’s where I saw him.
After being unconscious for several days, he woke up. The hospital staff told him that he would not only live, but that he would be able to keep his arm. Instead of being relieved, he started trying to fight his way out of the bed, like a prisoner trying to escape. The doctor told him, “You can’t go anywhere. You don’t understand. If you leave, you will DIE!” The boy responded by say, “No, YOU don’t understand. If I don’t go home, my mother and sister will die! I am the man of the house”….This is boy was only 13 years old.
Well word spread about this boy, and so several people donated money to help with the finances. The hospital gave him $200, which is enough to live comfortably for about six months. When he was better, the hospital took him to the small store on the base. When he went inside he started to run. He ran past the CDs, DVDs, Levi’s Jeans, and the other things that most young teenagers would kill to have. He instead ran to the back of the store and said, “I can’t believe it! My mother will be so happy.”….He then turned around and held up a mirror. And I’m not referring to an elegant mirror that you would put in a five star hotel. I mean a simple mirror that soldiers use to shave when they are out on missions. He said, “My mother has always wanted one of these…She has not seen herself in years”.
I’m not telling you this story to make you depressed, although it is a little sad. And I’m not even telling you this story to mean that you should not want more in your life, because ‘someone out there has it worse’. That’s not what I mean at all. I’m telling you this story in hopes that it will inspire you the same way that it inspired me. From that day forward I made a decision to realize and appreciate the value of everything, the same way that this young boy valued a cheap mirror that most of us take for granted. I started looking at everything as a blessing and an opportunity. Besides being grateful for the material things in my life, I have looked at every single work opportunity as the chance to become better. I have read hundreds of books, by some of the wisest people that have ever lived. I’ve watched thousands of YouTube videos on self-development. I value my friends, my family, my health, and all of the other blessings in my life. And I have discovered that the more that I am grateful for what I have, the more that I have to be grateful for. Most importantly, that young boy inspired me to be as selfless as possible, and to always give back to those around me.
So while you pursue the things that you want in life, as I encourage you to do, remember to be grateful for what you already have. Be grateful for the opportunities that you have to learn things that people even fifteen years ago could not learn, before this high-tech digital video world that we live in today. Don’t forget that time is the most valuable resource that any of us have, because you can’t get it back or produce more of it. So don’t spend it foolishly on things that don’t bring you any closer to success or happiness. And as you begin to achieve levels of success, no matter how big or small, always remember to share and give back to those around you. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover that this is the true secret to happiness in life.