The Power of Being Thankful

It was 00.30 (12:30am another fun European thing is using military time) and I was sitting on the train coming back from my day exploring in Frankfurt. The train ride, Frankfurt to Bad Homburg, is about 30 minutes so I figured perfect time to listen to my Audiobook (I have recently discovered the magic of Audiobooks and the ability to make “wasted” time useful… Driving, walking, weight lifting, etc.) I am currently listening to a book called Sports Genes by David Epstein. It is a great book but it was 00.30 in the morning and I had a couple glasses of wine circulating through my system, what did I really think I was going to retain about the complex genetic processes and their effect on physiology or the influences of culture and environment on elite performance? Yeah, exactly.. I wasn’t. Rolling my eyes and smirking at my ambitious self, I took my headphones out of my ears and paused my book.

While I was caught up in my own head, I never noticed the gentleman sitting across from me. In that moment an announcement came on, of course in German so I ignored it. He looked at me and asked if I understood it..(I scream American everywhere I go) I gave him my typical, “Sorry, I don’t speak German” line. He proceeded to tell me there was a delay at the next stop. I explained to him I was getting off later at Bad Homburg so it’s okay.

He lit up like a kid on Christmas and clapped his hands together. (I love people like this) Immediately, I was intrigued by his energy. He couldn’t stop smiling and in return meant I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.. even though I still had no idea what we were so giddy about. He finally expressed that’s where he lives and is also getting off there. I hit the jackpot with that answer.

He told me his name was Robel. Robel is 26 years old and stands at about 5’10" and all of a buck 20. We tried talking the rest of the ride home but language barrier was a real problem. He assured me that after one beer his English is flawless.

— I guess I will never know this superpower because I will never be able to choke down an entire beer. Duolingo will have to suffice.

We arrived and he asked for my number. I didn’t hesitate sharing it with him. We got off the train and walked to the bus station right outside. I pointed at the bus (meaning like are you taking this?) and he nodded. So I said goodbye, as I was going to walk home, and he said goodbye and hugged me. We met about 10 minutes ago but apparently we had already reached the hugging friendship.

Meeting Robel opened my eyes for a few reasons..

Be present. I think this is a huge problem with today’s society. We are hardly ever present. Our noses are always in our phones or our minds are always focused on the next thing. This was a wake up call for me. This guy full of good energy and spirit was sitting right in front of me and I was so consumed in me that I almost missed a great opportunity.

Share a smile. A smile is the most powerful tool. We could hardly communicate but I shared more laughs with him in those 15 minutes then I had with anyone here in Germany so far. His smile and energy was contagious. Granted, this was partially to do with the fact we were both so pleasantly confused by the others language we would just ended up laughing but still it was nice and it was genuine.

Fabulous Friend

Our friendship didn’t end at the train that night, he ended up coming to my game that following Saturday. He was thrilled by our performance and couldn’t stop giggling (If I could describe my favorite kind of person this would be it) Just happy and smiling all the time. It’s enjoyable to be around and again contagious.

I decided to meet my new friend for dinner. I saw him from a distance and he began jumping up and down, waving his hands in the air to make his location certain. Of course we hugged and headed to an Italian restaurant. Our conversations were slow but held depth. He asked me a question that I didn’t know how to answer…

“Why are you so happy? I had to meet you again, I had to know why you were smiling so big? I wanted to be your friend right away.” I was flattered but didn’t really have an answer so I just smiled and said, “Because life is fabulous.”

** Fabulous is now one of his favorite words and can be used to describe anything. An outfit, the weather, a meal, his mood. He’s now the Sharpay of Germany.

I’ve never really had to dissect my happiness before, especially to someone I just met, so I opted out with the simple answer. However, I truly was flattered. Mostly because that’s something I really value in life. I think it’s so powerful if you attempt to leave a positive impact on everyone you meet. Even if it is a stranger in the checkout line at the grocery store or someone you pass walking down the street, by simply flashing a smile in their direction it could change their entire mood. You never know what someone else is going through and if it’s as simple as smiling at someone, why not? I’m generally a happy person, why not share that with others? Because in the end, you attract the energy you give off. I want to surround myself with positive people so I need to be also returning that vibe.

Being Thankful is a Vibe

Robel shared this energy. It was high and he was thankful for everything (I soon discovered why) He continued and asked about my family, my hobbies, my travels. I told him my story and then it was his turn. I will never forget this conversation. He was from Eritrea, Africa. That is until he escaped. Sounds dramatic to say “escaped” but that’s what he did. In short his story proceeded like so, Eritrea is run by a Dictator and most young men get enlisted into the army when they turn 18. There is no end date for their service and they get paid next to nothing. His sister and mother helped him fund his escape as it cost about 7000 euros for his journey. He traveled through several African countries and at one point had to stay hidden in a home for months waiting for the next part of the mission.

His last stop was a ship from Libya to Italy. With 300 people. No bathroom. 2 full days.

He pointed to his left foot.. “Person” He pointed to his right foot.. “Person” He pointed to his left shoulder.. “Person” He pointed to his right shoulder.. “Person”

They were packing on that ship like sardines. With no place to move and no place to use the bathroom. I think my mouth hung open for the remainder of the story.

This kind of thing is something I might have heard about but not actually taking into account is still happening today. There are people out there still fighting a war against their own country for their freedom, daily. Meanwhile, some of our troubles back home include if should we let our children play with iPads at the dinner table.

Now, Robel is enjoying every minute of his new life in Germany these past few years. He has been working for a company and his duties entail driving the front loader. (I think that’s what it’s called) He works the morning shift one week and the night shift the next. Loading and unloading all day. He showed me a video of him driving the front loader and smiled. A smile of pride. He’s thankful.

We’ve hung out a few more times since that first dinner. Enjoying coffee, teaching german/english to one another, and even trying to play cards. Try explaining a new card game with a language barrier and the fact he wants no assistance because he wants to win on his own. I’m not that good at cards so I collected a few victories before forcing him to understand the rules. Each time hanging out there is great energy.

I’m thankful I met him on the train that night. I think that’s the key to all of this. The power of being thankful. To answer his question, “Why are you always smiling?” I think it’s because I’m thankful. I have an amazing family, a great group of friends, my health, and I’m living/experiencing life in a new country playing the sport I love. What’s not to smile about?

You are in control of your vibe. Your energy is sparked from being thankful. Until this point, I have never really correlated the two. If you are thankful for life, that vibe is projected. It’s the reason for your smile and your kindness. Start looking at the things you GET to do in life instead of the things you NEED to do.

You GET to go to work vs. you HAVE to go to work. You GET to cook dinner vs. you HAVE to cook dinner. You GET to make your bed in morning vs. you HAVE to make your bed in morning.

Looking around at the people that I have been drawn to, they are all thankful. They don’t take the little things for granted. They enjoy the sunsets, the perfect cup of coffee, the peace of nature, an evening with loved ones, a good book etc. So today and everyday, enjoy the little things and be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone ❤


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