I made a commitment to my mother recently that I would visit her in Vancouver every Mother’s Day and every year on her birthday. She was thoughtful for a moment, and then she told me that, as much as she appreciated that gesture, she would prefer if I would visit her each year on my birthday, so she could celebrate that day with me.
It was a heart-warming moment that got me thinking about one of the most incredible forces in world: the enduring power of a parent’s love.
We all begin our existence in the ultimate state of loving protection, inside the womb. But that desire by a parent to provide protection and support never goes away; if anything, the bond grows deeper once the child is out in the world, and even when they are eventually beyond arm’s reach. It’s a parent’s instinct to nurture and protect, to see in us what we don’t see in ourselves and to want a better life for us than they themselves had. Every parent looks at their child and sees incredible possibilities.
We hear this when we are kids - even rolling our eyes sometimes at hearing again how much they believe in us - but deep down, we know that we count on their unconditional love and support. We get a renewed appreciation for the power of that nurturing instinct when it’s our turn to raise children of our own and we do everything to make them see the possibilities we see in them. Through all the cycles of life - cycles of celebrations and disturbances - a parent’s devotion to the success of their children never wavers.
So here I am in this picture, in Vancouver with my mom last week, celebrating my birthday. I admit, I’m still a mama’s boy, even as I move into my sixties (ok, 61), and my mother is approaching 80.
And that feeling of thankfulness brings me to another thought as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday: that we should always being looking for these opportunities to see the good in life. We don’t need to wait for birthdays or Thanksgiving.
As we become adults outside of our parents’ protection, we acquire more responsibilities. We develop an eye for spotting the things that are wrong so we can fix them. That’s especially true for dentists, who are trained to identify what’s wrong at a very precise level. And that’s okay; spotting what’s wrong is an important first step in seizing opportunities. But we shouldn’t let our responsibility to recognize problems blind us to everything around us that is already great. And those of us living in the developed world are so blessed.
I suggest trying this exercise: For the next 30 days, make a special effort every day to step away from problem-solving for a moment and really notice the things that are good in your life. “Be thankful for what you have” may sound like advice you hear all the time, but in our busy world I think it really does take focused effort to truly appreciate our everyday blessings.
The bad is always easier to see in life - it jumps out at you and demands attention. But if we start from a place of recognizing all the good in our lives, it becomes easier to put the bad in the right context and perspective. For every bad circumstance we encounter, there are a thousand wondrous good things just waiting to be fully appreciated, and countless opportunities waiting to be seized. We just need to want that for ourselves, and to love our lives with an intensity that is as pure as a parent’s love.
(Click this link to read moredentistry articles by Imtiaz Manji.)