Attitude of Gratitude

Flower Bouiquet

Although 2020 may seem a time when the heavens plotted against each living soul on the earth, a little reflection will show we are not the only afflicted humans and stars still come out to light the year ahead.

“Joy, prayers and gratitude are the three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas in an authentic way,” Pope Francis noted in 2017 in his traditional prayer of thanksgiving. Two years earlier, visiting New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, he said:  “It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. . .to grow in spiritual gratitude.”

You could say that was easy for him to say three years ago, but today 80 million people in 217 countries have been affected with the virus and 1.75 million around the globe have died, most of them alone without family. Here in the U.S. we’ve had 18.8 million cases and 330,000 deaths.

Yet a little light at the end of the tunnel is shining. While this crisis isn’t over, parts of the country are still in the middle of a vicious fight, but the approval of a vaccine gives hope that by spring or early summer enough Americans will be vaccinated against Covid to free us from its scourge. Plans are underway to open elementary classrooms by late Spring, giving parents more time to earn a living while teachers teach.

We’re getting accustomed to cooking our own food, trying new recipes, polishing our own nails, cutting our own hair, washing our own cars (or letting them be)—it’s a do-it-yourself world—as we maintain social distancing while serving human activities. Have you developed a new appreciation for the people who have served you throughout your day?

That’s gratitude and this year we shouldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to offer words of appreciation to those around us. Your words and generosity can encourage your family and friends and may lift-up those discouraged in the value of their work at this most enlightened time of year.  Waste not a moment in reaching out in earned praise, to share comfort, and joy in being alive—to fight another day!

A wise friend of mine shared words of gratitude with me that I try, and sometimes fail, to model:

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”  Rumi

Stay tuned: – Thomas Edison’s Factory of Invention applied to 2021 next week.

Gratitude Magnifies Life’s Blessings

Google picture appropriate to the season of gratitude.

Sometimes the words and actions that we hear and see around us do not inspire us. But gratitude does! Now the sacrifices of the men and women who have served in the military are raised for all citizens to appreciate their service. So too the less considered among us the family, friends, and relatives of those who have perished on battlefields around the world. They carry with them this loss for the remainder of their lives, no matter how they appear to carry on.

Another type of graditude comes from those who bravely carry on their lives despite whatever burdens have been laid upon them. This week a 27-year-old acquaintance expressed gratitude to be alive. Not what I expected from this full-of-life woman, who never discussed her struggles the first year I knew her. She never knows when a change in weather—rain or colder temperatures—can bring her Sickle Cell Anemia to life. The constant pain in her hip comes as her own cells destroy her body.

But SHE is happy to be alive and works to make a difference in the lives of others—establishing a nonprofit to combine sports, the arts, and academics for high school students to help discover their talents and use them for success in college, the trades, and life.

Reluctantly she relinquished the stress of high tech sales, where she excelled, to care for herself. It’s just a step along the way for her. “I’ve found what seemed to be a failure, gave me an opportunity to grow and succeed,” she said. “It’s all a matter of how you look at life and move forward.”

Lunch Box Reminders

On lucky days I see the notes on my grandchildren’s returning lunch boxes. One said: “Fill someone else’s bucket and you’ll overfill your own.” Perceptive notes that come from a mother and father who talk with their children about keeping stoked with positives to avoid anger and disagreements. Thinking about others’ needs in early elementary can be challenging, but that may be just where gratitude begins.

Overcoming Life’s Challenges: Live on Your Own Terms

Time and financial pressures weigh on each of us, but often we neglect to realize how reaching out to assist others can uplift us and soothe our soul, if only for a moment. It’s not the money that can build a GoFundMe, but the willingness to help one and other—at a human level—that enriches our lives.

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can reach,” John Bunyan, an Englishman credited with writing A Pilgrim’s Progress in 1655. The Pay Back can be endless, maybe stretching three centuries forward to Elizabeth Gilbert, the Eat Pray Love novelist, who agrees gratitude can provide a forever thank you by encouraging you to do it again, to keep the circle rolling.

Saying It in a Song

Popular songwriters guarantee you will recognize their message by putting it to a catchy tune. Who can forget the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from my Friends,” or the theme from the Golden Girls: “Thank you for Being a Friend”? Then there’s my all-time favorite: “Your Song” by Elton John—“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” All remind us of the need to have people in our lives.

“How to Train a Dragon,” popular video with the young elementary crowd, features animated creatures and one embarrassed and bullied weakling—Hiccup—who struggles to instruct his dinky dragon, Toothless. Joy comes when the young dragon master learns his under-nourished dragon will respond to his jokes as opposed to the yelling imposed on the other non-responding dragons. Ah-ha. A hopeful sign.

Set Up Reminders to Spark Your Happiness

Parting thoughts on how to re-train the parts of your personality that fail to appreciate your bounty.  (1) Consider a Gratitude Journal to point out the good and brave acts you see in others, then jot down ideas of your own. Researchers at the University of Miami and University of California-Davis, have found that writing down what you’re thankful for and who deserves your gratitude can actually improve your personal happiness. Now that’s a two-fer worth considering.

(2) Being satisfied with the bounty you’ve received, instead of clamoring for more, can also improve your happiness. Who will ever receive EVERYTHING they want. (3) Meditate on the beauty in your life and who has brought that joy to you. Write that person a letter this season of gratitude, even if you can no longer deliver it. See if you aren’t just a wee bit happier and decide to repeat your steps into “gratitude.”