When I was a kid we used the word “dibs” a lot. I had dibs on sitting next to the door in the backseat of the family Buick on the way to church. I had dibs on the classroom’s leather football for the morning recess. When I was playing little league baseball I had dibs on the mahogany stained Louisville slugger bat with the electrical tape on the handle. I presumed that those positions or objects were sort of birthrights to me and I presumed everybody else had that figured out as well. I never really owned them. I never did anything to deserve them, and I was never really thankful for them . . . I just put “dibs” on them. 

Today, my native culture has graduated to a new level of sophistication. I look around and see my fellow travelers speeding down a newly paved freeway that allows for a much higher speed limit of cultural expression. I still sense the same spirit of “I dibs it,” but now I sense a frightening new power of selfish expression from the driver’s seat of the runaway vehicle. Instead of saying, “I dibs it,” I hear it repeated in rapid-fire sequence, “I deserve this . . . I’m entitled to this!” “Do it for me now!” 

If you look closely enough the seeds of tragedy can be found in the “I dibs it” statement. But the unraveling of civility can be found in the concept of “I’m entitled to this.” Recompense from a position of entitlement separates you from the attitude of gratitude. Why would you consider giving thanks for something that was due you and should have been given to you even earlier? But, Oh, how pleasing it is to hear the sincere and simple expression of gratitude from a meek and unassuming source. 

A couple of years ago Project C.U.R.E. teamed up with the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. Thousands of children in the area were dying each year with cardiac pulmonary problems brought on by a variety of African childhood diseases. We were able to install the very first cardiac catheterization equipment for children in the whole of East Africa, along with all the necessary supplies. The heart surgeons there are now saving the lives of about two thousand little kids each year! 

Recently, NBC Nightly News and Brian Williams dispatched reporter, Michael Okwu and a crew from Burbank, CA to follow up on our project. First, they visited the Denver headquarters of Project C.U.R.E., then the crew traveled to Addis Abba and the Black Lion Hospital. There, they interviewed little Teclemec’s mother. Teclemec was five years old and dying because her pulmonary artery was so narrow it obstructed the normal blood flow. “She didn’t eat or sleep,” her mother said. “She was a very sick little girl.” Then the Ethiopian heart surgeons worked their procedures and gave Teclemec a second chance to live. 

In the news video clip Teclemec, with sparkling eyes and a most engaging smile, speaks through the translators, “Now I can play and now I can run. Now I can do anything I want to do.” It is a perfect picture of a little girl with a million dollar smile and a mother with a heart full of simple appreciation. In the news segment Teclemec shyly dips her head to the cameramen, and with the countenance of an angel she simply says . . . “Thanks!” 

Oh, how refreshing. How beautiful. How rewarding, because, Gratitude is the soul’s expression of non-entitlement. 

To view the NBC News Clip in its entirety please click below:

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