Okay, the title might seem a little tacky considering we are approaching Thanksgiving Day — but let me tell you the story behind this comment. My daughter was five years old. She’d had a particularly grueling day, which for a five-year-old meant that she didn’t get recess in preschool because of rain, I made oatmeal cookies instead of chocolate chip, and her favorite dinosaur spoon that accompanied her bowl of cereal each morning was lost. In addition, her best friend was sick and couldn’t play, and C.H.I.P.S. was interrupted by a news bulletin. Could a day be any worse?
The night didn’t go much better, and after a long day of unhappiness it was time to say our prayers before going to sleep. I gathered up my son and daughter for our gratitude time. I didn’t let them recite a prayer, I required that they always thank God for something that happened to them on that particular day. I know, I probably shouldn’t have set prayer rules . . . but isn’t that what we do as human beings? Set rules that generally ruin the experience for everyone else? Anyway, my son started with a very sweet, thoughtful prayer, then I prayed, then . . .total silence.
I opened one eye and said “Honey, it’s your turn.”
She replied with “I know, but I don’t wanna pray.”
I said “Even if your day wasn’t so great, there has to be something you want to thank God for.” “ALRIGHT!” she said in a less than prayerful tone.
She closed her eyes, bowed her head, and said “Dear God, thanks for nothin’!”
My daughter checkmated me, and I learned that gratitude is not something that can be required, but it is something that can change the way you feel about your job, your life, your day. Too often I point a spotlight on the driver that got in my way (instead of the hundreds that did not), the client that didn’t choose me (as opposed to the majority who have), the sale that didn’t get made (as opposed to the long-term client that just renewed a relationship). Being ungrateful is exhausting.
So here’s my wish for you. This week don’t let yourself focus on what you don’t have, or what you wish you wouldn’t have said, or what is missing in your life. Instead, look at those you love. If you have people who love you, you should be grateful. When my dad was living with Cancer, despite broken bones and illness from chemo, he loved waking up each morning.
When I asked him how he could be so happy with so much illness he said, “Because I have one more day here. To breathe, to look at nature, and to be with the people I love.”
So today, even if your life is at its lowest common denominator, be thankful for the air you take in. Then move forward, one grateful breath at a time. Count every smile you receive from a stranger, acknowledge every driver that lets you in at a light, thank others for every door opened. Suddenly your life will seem unbelievably blessed. Gratitude is a gift received if you pay attention to the giving.