I have spent most of today in reflection and thought; perhaps something of a natural response to the cooling weather and returning grey skies, and perhaps in determination to become and remain a more mindful, grateful person. Life goes by so quickly, spent mainly scrambling on a routine treadmill of survive n' thrive, and we have so few uninterrupted hours to process our thoughts and the events of our lives and our world. I realize that having the time to think at one's leisure is mainly afforded to only the affluent or destitute. But for those of us somewhere in the great middle, it is good to step off and retreat every so often, good to be aware rather than numbed, good to be awake, engaged, to feel.

Today, I thought about friends. How easy it is for us to lose sight of how wonderful they are, not for what they do for us, but just for the incredible richness they bring to us by sharing themselves with us. If you didn't know it, or once knew it and had forgotten, I'll remind you: despite how horribly human beings can choose to treat each other, the beauty and kindness and strength in people will always triumph. Of this, I have no doubt at all, for without all those qualities and so many more, we would have perished as a species long ago, consuming each other, bereft of hope or joy.

Today, I thought about friends. These are just a few of them.

The new parents who are so attentive and loving to their toddler son, whose faces just beam in pride, despite the tiring days and nights of work balanced with demanding baby care, and who haven't lost themselves in the process.

All the friends who are going back to college to receive degrees in social work, speech therapy, and counseling psychology to be able to help people with their medical or emotional problems. It's hard, draining work, and a high paycheck will never come. They wanted to help people, and instead of just talking about it or putting a few dollars in a donation envelope, they are devoting their careers and lives.

The mom who radiates warmth and positivity, even when she would have every right to crumble into pieces over the unfairness of her child's fate.

The shaggy-haired goofball who talks a little tough but has the biggest heart of anyone I know.

The friend who, quietly, has helped the careers of so many.

The dashing punk who feeds the stray kittens that live under his car.

The women who works full-time yet never fails to think of how to fit time in with you.

The famous writer whose eloquence seems so effortless, and engages so kindly with so many.

The mom who lets her young daughters raise chickens in the backyard in a psychedelically-painted coop.

And the woman who faces as the sun rises tomorrow morning an incredibly complex and major cancer surgery, a "Hail Mary" attempt to save her life that comes with no guarantees of any kind. I think of her tonight, her strong spirit, wide smile, funky fashion sense, and bright eyes standing out far, far over her loss of hair or the crackle and peel of her skin from repeated chemotherapies. Her bravery is astounding. And her husband, who faces the day in a different way, waiting for ten or more hours with hope built on unshakable, fierce devotion. Tomorrow is also his birthday.

I have so very much to learn from them all, so very much to love and appreciate. You, too, have just as much richness in your own life. Take the time, sometime, to think about that.