Monthly Gratitude #6 by Kiran Umapathy

Last weekend, my friend Boris and I went for a bike ride around San Francisco. It started as a trip down to Heron's Head Park, and by the time we were done, had us cycling through Bayview, Hunter's Point, Visitacion Valley, and Excelsior. By coincidence it became a tour of housing projects, something that I all too often forget exists in San Francisco. It's easy too easy when you spend your time in more affluent neighborhoods.

On a couple of occasions where I had to walk my single speed bike up a steep hill, I noticed how rough the neighborhoods looked. It was like something out of a movie, far removed. The structures were sterile, lacked plant life, and from my perspective, hope. The pop-up establishments weren't gourmet burgers or vegan soul food, they were satellite police stations. No one looked happy to be there.

While many people may never set foot in some of these neighborhoods, I'm grateful for the experience. A reminder that not everyone lives a coiffed existence of fancy coffee, food, and cocktails. Hell, I'm even at the point where I get sick from participating in it. This ride kept me in touch with the reality of many people's lives, if even for an afternoon. It was also a reminder that goddamn, I'm lucky. Many kids grow up in similar situations with no choice and I can only imagine how difficult it is to advance yourself. It's a lifetime achievement just to get out.

Much of the time we equate privilege to exorbitant wealth, but it's privilege just to have a safe a stable roof over you head, parents who care, and not having law enforcement make snap judgments on how threatening you are because of how you look. Yes, life is challenging even without all that, but can you imagine the extra burden when there are so many barriers to begin with? This is a call to speak out (beyond the internet) when profiling happens. Not with just outrage, but real discussion on what's not working and how we can improve it, even a little. It's a call to vote based on more than who is going to cut your taxes or pad your investment accounts. Most of all, it's a call to not forget what great progress has been made in the past and know that it will continue to happen if you participate. Progress is rarely linear, but it's absolutely worth it to keep chipping away.

Monthly Gratitude #3 by Kiran Umapathy

What I'm grateful for this month is the capacity for empathy. We may assume everyone has a healthy amount of it, but I don't think that's the case. If it was, it's not that we would never hurt others, but I think there would be far less of it going on.

I believe empathy to be part physical and part acquired or developed. You need an acceptable chemical balance to be able to experience certain emotions, but I also think it can be a skill refined through experience, thought and listening.

I don't claim to be among the very best (it's more like I aspire to improve), but I am aware of other people's emotions and am able to project how that would make me feel in the same situation. I would rather understand where someone is coming from than make hasty judgments.

Even though this can put you at a disadvantage with respect to your career or financial gain (I think there are many sociopaths that fare well in business precisely because they are unable to have empathy), I'm fine with that. I'd rather be able to make an emotional connection with my fellow earthlings than pretend that I'm taking a fortune beyond the grave. I'm thankful for whatever combination of genetics, upbringing and life expereinces have brought me to this point.

Monthly Gratitude #2: Health by Kiran Umapathy

I’m appreciative of my health. I know it’s something that can change overnight or with a freak accident, but I’ve been extremely lucky so far.

I can run 10 miles and it’s no big whoop. Hiking is rarely strenuous and my body allows me to experience just how amazing nature is. It’s not uncommon that I’ll walk 2 miles to go do something instead of being lazy and summoning a car.

To be fair, I’ve developed habits that help me maintain this privilege. I make it a point to be active and I’m not afraid to get a little sweaty or have my hair looking less than perfect. I don’t eat complete trash all the time and I value sleep that helps me recover instead of following the ill-fated advice of “sleeping when I’m dead.”

Still, living in a big city you see people in wheelchairs, people with missing limbs and elderly that can no longer even stand safely on a city bus. I’ve got to be thankful for what I have now because it may not always last, but at the same time remember that much of it is still very much under my control.