Why Bother with Gratitude?

Why Bother with Gratitude?

The jolly holiday of Christmas is behind us, and it is still the season of winter where the hours of darkness surpass those of daylight. An attractive, but unlikely solution to weathering this cold, daunting time of year might be to hibernate until spring. But instead, humans were created to forge ahead with living despite how the weather might make us feel. Everything though, is made a little harder by winter, including counting our blessings. 

          Why Count Our Blessings?

Being grateful, especially during a time such as this, may be more difficult, but cultivating gratitude is especially necessary when we feel the least grateful. Yet, the more we notice those things for which we can be grateful for, the more gratitude we feel. In other words—gratitude begets gratitude. 

A few years ago, I challenged myself to start a gratitude journal. I wanted to keep a list until I reached the magic number of one thousand. I stopped at ninety-nine because the items became redundant. Although I did not reach my goal, the practice of writing down my blessings forced me to look at them. I concluded that good things occur every day in my run of the mill life; running water, plenty of food, good friends, a job that pays the bills, physical and mental well-being, and a happy marriage. Tabulating these items heightened my awareness. As a result, gratitude became a natural response to the dailiness of ordinary life. 

Though I have hopes that my gratitude infiltrates the lives of others, I also have to be wary of those things that rob me of the attitude of gratitude. Like a treasure, I guard it from robbers. For instance, I don’t spend too much time with cynical and narcissistic individuals. Though I’d like to think my kind heartedness might override their self-centeredness, that is not always true. Nothing short of an encounter with a miracle worker will cast out hatred and conceit in some people.  And since I am not in the business of working miracles, I limit my exposure to growlers and scowlers. I also keep envy and comparison, two other gratitude robbers, at bay. When these two thieves rise up inside of me, I know what squelches them—simple appreciation for who I am and what I have. 

Gratitude is a feeling, but one that is nurtured and grows as we find things we appreciate. With practice, gratitude becomes an unlabored and daily giving of thanks. Without cost, gratitude gives our mental, emotional, and physical health a boost. On top of that, there are no ill side-effects resulting in an attitude of gratitude. 

Why bother with gratitude? It is worth it to be grateful because the other option is to be ungrateful. And who wants to be saddled with that title?

Why Bother Counting Your Blessings?

Why Bother Counting Your Blessings?

Why consider our blessings? Why take note of the great and small benefits in our lives? What do we gain when we acknowledge how fortunate we truly are? Allowing  ourselves to take inventory of our daily, bountiful gifts fills our hearts with gratitude and spills over. Our gratitude creates a wave of gratefulness and splashes into the faces of others, waking them up to gratefulness.  

Mindful 

Being grateful begins by paying attention to the normal and the daily goodness we encounter.  When I set my automatic coffee maker at night, I get to wake up to the smell of coffee. Holding the hot, colorful cup in my hands, feeling the steam on my face and taking the first sip of the dark brew is how my work day begins. Seeing, smelling and touching are nothing that I take for granted, rather these senses arouse my heart to a feeling of gratefulness.  

I have a job that I mostly enjoy and am paid a fair wage. My co-workers spur me on in my profession so that I do not become stagnant. My students are lively, animated and unique, so every day has its own set of surprises. I get to go to a job that is both satisfying and challenging. Thinking this way about my work gives me the wherewithal to keep my focus and energy where it belongs for the duration of the school day. Having a grateful attitude energizes not only me, but all those big and little lives surrounding mine.  

Monday through Friday leaves little time for leisure, but my weekends open up at least a few hours for breathing space. I sleep longer in the mornings, linger over breakfast and read a good book later into the night. I don’t live for the weekends, but when they come around, I see and enjoy them for the gifts they are.  

Relationships are nothing we own, rather they are something offered to us. Some friendships are longer lasting, deeper and richer than others, but all have value. I am thankful for the one man in my life who remains faithful to me and to our marriage. When our union began, there were no guarantees of how long it would last, but our commitment to each other has lasted a long time. There is no one who knows me better and loves me in spite of all my obvious foibles. But, this lasting and happy marriage is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given. 

Why bother counting your blessings? It is worth it to begin listing the goodness in your life. When you do, you and someone else will wake up to gratefulness.

Why Bother To Be Thankful?

 

Why Bother To Be Thankful?

As a public school teacher, I teach more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. I also instruct my students in social graces; no shoving in line, and don’t chew with your mouth open, along with emotional awareness; be kind to each other, and respect one another. Recently, our topic of discussion has been thankfulness. 

“What do you think of when I say thankful,” I asked my group of fourth graders during our few minutes of group meeting.

“I think of Thanksgiving,” one student said, “Because the word ‘thank’ is in both words.”

He was right, but I wanted to extend their thinking of thankfulness beyond the holiday we celebrate once a year.   

Grateful

“ I listed some synonyms for thankful,” remarked someone else. “Grateful, gratitude and happy.”

“Why did you list happy?”

“Because when you are thankful, you are happy.”

“Nice connection. Now I’m wondering; Do you think people have the choice to be grateful or not?” I wanted to stretch their thinking a little bit with this question.

“I don’t think so because my parents gave my two little brothers each a Nerf gun and my one brother was not happy that his was smaller than my other brother’s, so my parents took the Nerf gun away from him and told him they were going to take it back to the store since he wasn’t very thankful for it.”

“So what do you think your parents are trying to teach your brothers?” I asked, surprised by her observation.

 “To be thankful and if they aren’t then they get their gift taken away.”

“Yeah, but he had a choice to be thankful just as much as he had a choice to complain,” pipes in another student. I watch the heads around the room bob in agreement. The one who told the story just shrugs her shoulders. 

“Do you all know who Eeyore is?” I continue.

“He’s that donkey in the story of Christopher Robin,” more than one student says.

“I want you to listen to Eeyore for a moment, and then I want you to think of some advice you would give him.” The sound of Eeyore’s sad, slow and melancholy voice fills the airspace in the room. Then a dozen hands shoot up as soon as Eeyore’s voice finishes. 

“Chin up Eeyore. You don’t have it as bad you think,” shouts out one student. 

“You need to be thankful, Eeyore, for what you have,” says another.

“You have a whole bunch of friends, and a roof over your head Eeyore, so why aren’t you thankful?” says a third student.

My allotted time for this discussion is running out, but it is hard to quit. My students love to share their opinions, ideas and knowledge, so I decide to ask another question. “Why do you think it is important to be thankful?”

“People will want to be around you,” responds a student.

“You will feel better,” says another.

I squeak in two final questions, “Who is someone you know who is grateful and how do you know they are grateful?”

“We know you are thankful to be our teacher, Mrs. Luikens because we know you like us,” says one of my brightest students. 

“You smile and laugh with us,” says another.

Why bother to be thankful? It is worth it to be as smart as a fourth grader. Even they know how important it is to be thankful.