I always have trouble with my eyesight (but I still refuse to wear my glasses). I had deductions in a test for not following instructions written on the board, I have a hard time commuting, and I am dismissed as a snob because I can’t easily recognize people. Then a friend told me, “Be thankful, at least, somehow you can still see!”

But I realized, what if I was really blind? Does that mean life has to be so miserable for me?

Many of us have a crooked sense of gratitude. We console ourselves by pushing ourselves up and stepping down on other people. We love to count our blessings, but in so doing, we rob others of theirs.

I once visited a school for the blind in Davao in high school. Our teacher, during her briefing, mentioned that we should be grateful that we could see because the people we were visiting unfortunately could not.

I didn’t totally agree with her. True, we should be grateful. But these blind people are not unfortunate for losing their eyesight. They are not deprived of that gift, they have another gift—and that is the gift of seeing with their hearts. The mirror has two faces, and it depends on how you look at it—that no one is entirely unfortunate. We should be grateful for what we are, and not for being unlike someone else—that’s bitterness sugarcoated by false gratitude.

***

The embassy of Netherlands will sponsor a major exhibit about Anne Frank. I’m sure most of you, like me, have been touched by that sincere and poignant book, Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.

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Anne experienced one of the worst times in human history—the Nazi period. Yet amidst that, she proved to be an epitome of the strength of humanity. From her, I learned the true virtue of gratitude which she exemplified despite being harangued by depression, persecution and hopelessness. She says these lines:

This is one of the things that Mummy and I are so entirely different about. Her counsel when one feels melancholy is: “Think of all the misery in the world and be thankful that you are not sharing it!”

I don’t see how Mummy’s idea can be right, because then how are you supposed to behave if you go through the misery yourself? Then you are lost. On the contrary, I’ve found that there is always some beauty left—in nature, sunshine, freedom; these can help you. Look at those things, then you find yourself again, and God, and then you regain you balance.

***

Speaking of gratitude, It was Anne who taught me to see the world when there seems nothing to be grateful of. I’m trying hard to be sincerely and honestly thankful. I put my You-think-I’m-going-to-curse-you-but-actually-I’m-grateful-to-you- glasses on.

So when I’m faced with my anti-female antique professor (who did nothing but blame all the misfortunes of this world to women), instead of letting him spoil my day, I should be grateful that I’m witnessing the master theory of Charles Darwin unfolding before my eyes: human evolution. Only, the evolution goes backwards (with emphasis: from man to ape) because of my professor’s backward mentality.

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Or when I find the library materials inadequate for my thesis, and so wanted to research in other libraries, but two of the library staff disagree on whether to give me permission or not (though I usually end up being turned down, because one said, they only allow two persons a day—so unreasonable), I can always say, that at least, a frequent trip to the library(i.e. going up and down the second floor where the administrative office is) is a good form of exercise.

Or when warring students from different colleges malign each other all over comfort rooms, I should be grateful that even in the comfort of the restroom, I can always practice my intellectual faculty, and debate within me which gives the best argument (e.g. Kayo pangit! Kami Pretty!—Oh, okay!) or which has a better handwriting.

Geez! I think these are bitterness all wanting to explode. I don’t think I’m learning to be sincerely and honestly grateful at all. Perhaps, in those cases, the two faces in the mirror are identical! So I really have no choice but to see their ugly faces.

I never thought gratitude would be this hard in the university.

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