Gratitude is “…the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness…” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. According to most five-year-old children, it is being nice, minding one’s manners, as well as remembering to say, “Please,” “Thank You,”and “You’re welcome.”
Complaining is the opposite of gratitude, and constant complaining becomes a habit that is hard to break. After awhile, complainers become more and more isolated because people don’t want to be around someone who is so negative when they have plenty for which to be grateful and content.
It seems ungrateful to complain about having daily chores to keep a household clean and pleasant, since having those very chores means one has a house and belongings that need to be maintained and cared for, daily. Doing dishes means that there is food enough to cook and eat, mowing the lawn means you have a yard, live in a house, and have enough extra money to buy a mower, and if the weather doesn’t cooperate, enough money to pay for water to keep it looking green and growing. This is especially true when one considers that there are a lot of people who are without a warm, safe place to live, and go to bed hungry, even in our country–the advertised “Land of Plenty.”
Dr. Christina Hibbert discovered, after making an effort to “live gratefully” for an entire year, that “…living gratefully means actively keeping in focus the goodness of life. It means, even when things get tough, when we feel like there’s no light or hope, we can still see how everything is right and will somehow work out for our good. It means we cultivate gratitude continually in our heart and express gratitude continually in our world…” This quote from her blog, The Psychologist, the mom & me, summarizes her year long journey to become more grateful–no matter what happens.
Thinking about living gratefully, it seems that resilience is part of the process as well. In most of our experiences, there has been someone who has had a terrible disease, lots of bad luck, horrible tragedies–perhaps several over the span of a few months or years–and who still find something positive every day they are alive. These people seem to be extraordinary in an ordinary life, and give anyone who comes in contact with them, a little extra pep in their step, or a smile on their face, just because they came in contact with that person.
In everyday life, these inspirational people may be dealing with severe pain that could be an excuse for remaining in bed. However, they are upright, with a smile on their face, and a lilt in their voice while doing productive and creative things all day long. These are the people who become everyday heroes to all of us. It is hard to complain about a twinge or ache when dealing with someone who, in spite of pain nothing can alleviate, will smile, joke, and think every day is a day in which to rejoice.
One can question living gratefully for someone who has suffered unknowable pain with cancer that has recurred time after time with extremely painful surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplants with courage and an upbeat attitude. They are grateful for each sunrise that promises them one more day to be with the ones they love and to do something for others; and celebrate the end of each day with one more beautiful sunset and moonrise.
Living gratefully is taking joy in seeing a child’s smile; holding a grandchild for the first time; enjoying time with others; basking in the warmth of the sun; creating a special dish for a loved one; watching a bird flying around a bird feeder; spotting the first Cardinal of the season; discovering the first crocus in spring; seeing the first bloom of one’s favorite flower; watching the leaves turn to crimson; rejoicing in the first snowfall of the season; and breathing in the scent of the Earth when it is turned over for a garden.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Buddha