Every Day Provides A Chance
Tomorrow my American friends will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and, as with the Canadian celebrations, we ask, “What are you thankful for?”
This is a customary Thanksgiving question. This year it might just take on extra special meaning. So, I went back 10 years to a piece that I wrote to share some thoughts about how to be thankful in all things.
Caught up as we are in the various dramas of life whether political or personal, thankfulness is often the last thought on our minds. Please pause and reflect on something, an incident or meeting, that reminds you to be thankful in all things. Do share in the comments section below this post. Here is my recollection.
Complain Less, Be Thankful More
We are often so busy complaining. We complain about the things that are either absent from or are in short supply in our lives. So much so that we miss the blessings that arrived in forms so simple. For example my situation this past week (2005). My daughter’s graduation ceremony was on Wednesday (May 25, 2005) and I was about to lose an eye crying because I did not have the money to pay to have her make-up professionally done.
Twenty-four hours later, driving her and her friend to the banquet, I was reminded why the make-up did not matter. I was reminded that I was losing focus of what was really important. A truck rear-ended us in a line of traffic. We required medical attention and the back of my vehicle damaged. However, knowing how stubborn I am, it seems The Divine was not taking any chances. As if to make sure that I understood my focus was off, the following day my pager that I carried as an Intern Hospital Chaplain went off. It was a Unit Clerk calling to say that a family needed support as their loved one was making his transition.
Honestly, I balked a bit, thinking, “How could I do this when I was still shaken myself from yesterday’s collision?” I was completely focussed on me and my perceived suffering. Questioning whether Source did not realise that I could not handle death right then, I thought to myself, “My daughter and her friend were in pain and discomfort, we needed a Chaplain ourselves.”
Ask And It Is Answered
Within seconds of the questions coming to my mind, I received my answer. These passages of holy texts came to me as well as a memory from 2001.
“Give thanks in all circumstance.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity and curse them in adversity. In pleasure or pain, give thanks!” Meklita Exodus 20.20
My mother tried to instill in me a sense of gratitude. She always reminded me to say ‘thank you’ for every gift, deed or kind word someone gave or said to me, especially adults. “Manners,” she would say, “will take you through the world.”
Somewhere along the line though, things got all mixed up and saying ‘thank you’ became something to impress someone with my politeness. Worse yet, it was said without any true passion or true feeling of gratitude.
Oprah Winfrey was one of the first ‘new thought’ thinkers, who I heard espousing the virtues of gratitude and having a gratitude journal. Later, as the idea became something of a fad, I dismissed it, as something idle rich women would indulge in to feel good about themselves.
“Not for me,” I thought. “Not for people who are struggling to make it up the @#%& corporate ladder.” I tried it anyway. I wrote in a makeshift gratitude journal but quickly dispensed with it when after two weeks my miracle never came.
A few years later, I again met up with my old friend ‘gratitude’, This time around, we entered into an amazing relationship. Being grateful, I came to learn, does not need a doctorate, any special formula or even a journal. It does not require being an orthodox believer or even being a radical out-of-the box thinker.
Being grateful is simply saying ‘thank you’ for all that comes into your life – challenges, joy, moments of happiness, food, a pet, the stranger who smiled at you, the astronomically high telephone bill – everything.
The secret of being grateful that opened to me was simple. The more I give thanks, really meaning it and in a spirit of true appreciation, is the more I receive. And I have received in ton loads ever since. Relationships improved and became more authentic. By being thankful for her and letting her know that I was, my (then)teenage daughter opened up to me more. Meaningful job opportunities began opening to me.
More importantly, by being intentionally grateful I feel more love in my life and I feel more capable of loving.
Check Your Attitude
What do you hope to receive today? Conversely, what have you been grateful for today? Are you busy searching online or the party and club scenes for the perfect partner? But, have you been giving thanks that you have good friends and companions who love you?
Maybe you are as I was back then:
- caught up in the comparison game, wondering about where you are vs the neighbours, siblings, co-workers?
- too busy worried about your career and your reputation? Or
- the stuff around your house, your ‘attainments’ have your attention? Are they preventing you from giving thanks for your life experiences, your education and your ability to learn more?
What about the money you ‘received’ that enabled you to buy what you already have. Did you give thanks for that or were you too busy worried about not having the latest model television?
You may not be particularly fond of journalling, but get beyond the act and consciously start giving thanks. Be proactive with your gratitude! Find what works for you – if not a journal or a scrapbook then record your gratitude on your smart phone.
It could even be as simple as writing your thanks on a scrap of paper at the end of each day or just say them before you close your eyes, “Thank you for everything, this day, the comfortable and the not so comfortable, through which I have learnt and grew.”
As I prayed with that family the morning after the collision back in 2005, I saw their pain as they mourned their loved one. In that moment, I realized that it would not have mattered whether my daughter’s make-up was professionally done were she the one lying on that bed.
Gratefully, I wiped the tears from my eyes and hugged the members of the family, acknowledging what they had gifted me – the insight that what mattered was that my daughter is alive, she graduated from high school, she loves me and still wants to dance with me. Everything else is extra!
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Have a great rest of the week!