It had seemed like a good enough plan at the time. My husband had gone to the Apple store in Grand Central to upgrade his phone, and I had wandered into the Hudson News bookstore. Ten minutes later, as I was flipping through 101 Must-Visit Natural Wonders, my phone rang.

“Come to the Apple store,” my husband said when I picked up the phone. “They mixed up our phone cards, and your phone is going to shut off any second now.”

Before I could respond, the line was cut off. I stared at the words in the upper left corner of my phone: “No Service.” I felt vaguely uneasy, like some part of me was missing. Before I could respond, the line was cut offReluctantly, I shut the book, glancing once more at the photo of the turquoise water lapping against a towering cliff on some island I had never heard of.

I threaded my way through crowds of people on the stairs leading up to the Apple store, a labyrinth of rooms opening into rooms. New laptops and tablets sat on glass tables, and rows of rainbow-colored phones climbed up the back wall. I instinctively reached for my phone to call my husband—and was again distressed to see the empty space where my signal used to be.

As I scanned the store for my husband, it seemed like I was the only person who was not on a phone. People were speaking into the air or texting messages, glancing up and then right back at their screens, waiting for answers.

I positioned myself at the end of the balcony, overlooking the main floor of Grand Central. I looked down at the people rushing by. And then, inexplicably, I looked up. I was astounded by what I saw. Above me, the ceiling was covered with stars shaped into all of their miraculous formations. For years I had rushed off trains in this station, careening at high speed down corridors to the subway. First it was for school. Then it was for work. The New York run-or-be-run-over mindset was so ingrained in me that I would often rush even when I didn’t have to. And throughout all those years, I never once looked up. I never saw the stars.

And I never really saw the people, either. Families from all over the world snapping pictures beside intricate pillars I hadn’t noticed. People dressed in beautiful clothes striding beside beggars in ripped shirts. Lonely faces. Smiling faces. And everything in between. For some reason, perhaps because I wasn’t looking down at my phone like everyone else, several tourists stopped to ask me for directions. I was pointing out the direction to Lexington Avenue when I spotted my husband. He had left the Apple store to look for me, and was now frantically Lonely faces. Smiling faces. And everything in betweenwaving from the bottom of the steps.

“That was scary,” he said, as he shook his head. “Disconnected in Grand Central.” As we rushed off to reset our phones, I glanced up at the enormous ceiling once again. I saw my husband follow my gaze, and we stopped for a moment.

“You know, I never noticed that before,” he said.

On the way home, I thought about how I had felt standing on that balcony in Grand Central. I had felt grateful. In the middle of one of the noisiest, dirtiest, most crowded places in the world, I had seen beauty. Overlooking a station that I ran through for years, I had seen so much that I had never noticed before. And if that could happen in Grand Central, then what would the rest of my life look like if I remembered to look up?

Studies in neuroscience have found that the human brain cannot possibly process all the information it is exposed to. Therefore, the brain has to choose what tiny percentage of stimuli it will focus on. So we literally shape our own reality, distinct from the reality of the person sitting next to us. Our ability to see the world from other vantage points is the foundation of our happiness and success.1

For us, as Jews, gratitude is the basis of so many mitzvahs. We wake up in the morning and immediately express our thankfulness to G‑d that our souls have been returned to us. Throughout the day we continue to thank and bless G‑d for the food we eat, for our clothing, for our bodily functions. Even the very name “Jews” (Yehudim, from the Kingdom of Judah) alludes to gratitude: Judah was named so by his Even the very name “Jews” alludes to gratitudemother, Leah, who was expressing gratitude to G‑d for giving her this son.

Choosing to focus on what we are grateful for allows us to see the abundance in our lives. And sometimes, life itself forces us to look at new realities that are different but equally true. Sometimes, on a balcony in Grand Central Station, we can look up and see the stars.