*I was in the seventh grade riding on a yellow school bus with my classmates. We were on our way from a week long trip to “Echo Woods”. This was the famous right of passage trip that all seventh graders got to take at my school, Abington Friends. We arrive back at the school, I step off the bus and was met by the school headmaster and my Aunt. They both looked worried.

Bruce, the headmaster begins to explain that my mother has been in a car accident. Most of the conversation was a blur, but I remember asking “can she walk?”, “can she talk?”. They told me yes. I would later find out that, that wasn’t at all true. After staying a day or two at my aunts, my sister and I were finally able to see my mother. I can’t describe the feeling, but it feels like it was yesterday. A taxi had run into my mother on her way to pick me up. She had eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken collar bone and a huge gash in her head. When I walked in the room her breathing was being subsidized by a machine. I didn’t know it, but this moment would change me forever. It was then that I understood the fragility of life. I am grateful for my mother.

I’m on the phone with a good friend. There is a knock at the door. I say “hold on”, put the phone down and walk to the door. I look through the peep hole, see a young kid and open the door. Only then I don’t see the kid anymore when the door is open. Instead two men with masks and guns burst into my apartment. I’m 20, in nothing but a tee shirt and I’m afraid. They notice that I have a person on hold and they whisper and tell me to tell the person that I’ll call her back. I did. They rummage through everything and ask me questions that I mostly don’t remember. I talk to them, so that I can be a “real person” and not some random disposable one. I’m praying. They take things. Then they tell me to count to one hundred and they leave. I count to fifteen, put my pants and jacket on, grab my purse and I leave too. I am grateful for my life.

I met a then girl (later magnificent woman) in college named Daynese. She was very boisterous, bold and loud. I didn’t think I would like her, at first because she was so not me (smile). I later found out that she thought the same thing about me. We became the best of friends and were inseparable for many years in and out of college. One day I found out that she was fighting cancer. What?! How can that be? Okay, well she’s going to win. She fought hard. And then she was tired and she stopped. I miss her. I am grateful for my true friendships.

These are a few defining pivotal moments in my life that have led me to this place. I understand, in a real way, that life and relationships are precious gifts. Each of these situations made me want to live a fuller life with the least amount of complaints and complacency. I’m not impressed by money though I like to have it. I’m not moved by fame, though I respect those who want it. I’m not offended (mostly) by people, though I pray for their healing. I’m just grateful.

Monica Cost is communications strategist, brand manager and respected corporate and motivational speaker. She is the President and Founder of Evidently Assured, a brand & talent management firm.  Email her at:  [email protected]. Follow her via Twitter: @monicacost and Facebook.com/monicahairstoncost.