GRATITUDE: I Followed A Stranger Into An Alley In Turkey and Came Out A Changed Person

Sometimes We Find Gratitude and Sometimes It Finds Us

The Unexpected Invitation

One year, I traveled on business to Istanbul, Turkey. In between meetings with clients, my son and I made trips to see the sights of Istanbul. I read in a guidebook that the best ice cream in all of Turkey was on the Asian side of the Bosporus. So my work associate, my son and I boarded the passenger ferry for the short fifteen-minute ride that crosses the strait that separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey, and then drops people off on the Asian side. Unlike Istanbul, with its modern bridges in the midst of ancient mosques, the Asian side of the Bosporus greeted us with the latest high end stores and busy streets filled with masses of people.

We hopped into a cab and I gave the driver the address of the ice cream store. After driving around in circles for about twenty minutes, it was clear that the driver had no idea where the address was. Since it was lunchtime, we asked him to change course and take us to the nicest restaurant that he knew of. The driver dropped us off at a quaint little restaurant overlooking the sea of Marmara. There was a platter of fresh fish laid out to the left as we entered and we were taken to a lovely table overlooking the sea, complete with a linen tablecloth and silver place settings.

Earlier that same morning in the hotel, while my son was asleep, I had been sitting on my bed crying. I was feeling so depressed; I didn’t know what to do. Now, at this beautiful table overlooking the Sea of Marmara, I felt the tears welling up again. I was thinking that I didn’t want my colleague or my son to see me cry for what appeared to be nothing. I was just about to excuse myself to go to the ladies’ room when I looked up and saw the waiter beckoning me to follow him. I had assumed he was leading me to the restroom.

But as we went past the front door, past the restroom, through the kitchen, out the back door and down some stairs, I knew we were headed somewhere else entirely. For some reason I wasn’t afraid. Something told me I had to follow him. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, he stood aside and gestured for me to go into a small room, and I did. As I stepped inside, the waiter shut the door behind me.

At first, all I could see was light. As my eyes began to adjust, I saw that the light was coming from lit candles. Everywhere! As my eyes continued to adjust, I saw stunningly beautiful mosaics of holy men and women covering every wall from floor to ceiling. All around me was hammered silver, both in the mosaics on the walls and on the floors. Even the tables were silver. Everything reflected the flickering candlelight.

On the tables I saw several rectangular silver boxes, each of them filled with sand and holding masses of lit candles. My tears began to flow again as I stood there amid the dazzling light and color, the candlelight playing gently on the ornately decorated room. It was truly breathtaking.

Is all this beautiful light just for me? I wondered as I stood there, unable to move. I watched the candles as they burned down to the sand and went out. My lunch with my son and colleague was completely forgotten for a few minutes. All I could think of was, Thank you. Thank you for this beautiful gift of light, peace and beauty.

When all the candles had burned down, the light changed in the room. I opened the door and made my way back to our table. By this time, my food was cold, and my companions were waiting for me, having finished their lunch.

“Hey, what happened to you?” my son asked.

“I’ll show you after lunch.” I replied with a mischievous grin.

Who Was the Mysterious Man?

After we paid our bill, I looked for the waiter who had led me to the beautiful experience in the shrine filled with light. But he was nowhere to be found. Was he an angel? Did I imagine him? Could this be the miracle I had been praying for? When I could not find him, I asked another waiter if I could show my son something just outside the kitchen door. He nodded, so I led my son down the back stairs and into the room where I had just been.

To my astonishment, the tables were now empty. The candles and silver boxes that had held them were gone. Without the wondrous light flickering on the silver and mosaics, it looked like an ordinary room with a few relics on the wall. My son looked at me, totally bored, and said, “And the big deal here is?”

I laughed, trying to cover my own surprise at the complete change in the room, and said, “Oh nothing. Just something I thought you might find interesting.” I pulled out my camera and took some pictures so that I might research this place later. “Let’s go find that ice cream now, shall we?” I suggested.

We never did find the ice cream, but what I did find that day was a connection to a deeper part of myself, and also a profound sense of gratitude. I had discovered a true miracle of the heart in that small shrine; I felt healed from my worldly troubles by the unexpected gift of light given to me by a complete stranger in another land far from home.

From Me To You

Think back to a time in your life when an unexpected encounter or moment of your life put you in touch with a profound sense of gratitude.

Imagine that moment in your mind now.

Where were you?

What happened?

How did that make you feel?

Remember what you focus on expands. Gratitude attracts more things to be grateful for.

Share what you’re grateful for in the comments!

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