THE BLOG
07/03/2013 04:01 pm ET | Updated Sep 02, 2013

In Gratitude

I am writing this blog from a café in Jaffa, an amazing little area just south of Tel Aviv, where Jews and Arabs live together in harmony. I find it completely and utterly amazing here, and over the period of a few weeks while I was visiting Tel Aviv, I found myself coming to Jaffa every second I had.

But one of the things that has affected me the most on this trip to Israel is a few hours that I spent with a man in the Army in Jerusalem.

He was born in the old city and grew up with eight brothers and sisters... all living in the same room. When I first met him, he could have easily passed for an American (minus the army uniform) His English was flawless. Some of his sisters shared a bed growing up and a few of them would sleep in tents on the roof of their home for more space.

Like most Israeli citizens after high school, he is currently in the middle of serving his three years in the army. After reporting for duty, and putting in a full day, he works another seven hours at an ice cream shop so he can save money for his parents. He did not complain. He spoke with a shine in his eye and beautiful smile.

All I could think about was how I grew up with one sister. My own room. Family vacations... and in my younger years I did not have one shred of gratitude. This makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I write this blog with tears in my eyes and a big full grateful heart. Grateful for everything. For the fact that I am healthy. I get up every day and can see and smell and hear and walk and dance. Jump. Write. Play. Speak my mind. Give my dog kisses. Grateful for the fact that my current life allows me to travel. To see so many different corners of the world. My every day life in LA is filled with my feelings of gratitude. But these trips do something different. They touch the inner core of my spirit in ways that my mind can't even comprehend.

I ask for forgiveness from my parents for having to deal with my ever being a spoiled brat. I ask for forgiveness from myself for spending obscene amounts of money in the past on shoes. I now live a life where I give as much as I possibly can..for this brings me so much more happiness than a pair of shoes or a pill or a party ever did.

I live a life where when I see a stray animal I give it a name. Is gratitude something that needs to be learned? Does it exist in the western culture for people under the age of 25?

Before I left for this trip we completed our final session for The Farley Project with the seventh grade students in Inglewood. It amazed me how many of these tough inner city kids said how their dream was to make "so much money..so they could give it to charity and bring it back to their neighborhood." This filled my heart so much. I did not want to change the world under I was 33 and these kids want to do it at 13. Surely they are exceptional.

I am grateful. I am sorry. I am enlightened. I am humbled. I am so full and wanting to do whatever I can to help and make a difference on this earth. As much as I can for as long as I can.

With so much love & gratitude,
Elissa