Adding this Social-N article to the Library…
WHAT IF TODAY WE ONLY GET
WHAT WE WERE GRATEFUL FOR YESTERDAY?
Gratitude. We all want it (when do something kind for someone else). We all need it (to feel good about our actions or to feel good about others’ actions toward us). We all claim it isn’t necessary for others to express their gratitude to us (but are silently disappointed when they don’t and happy when they do) and we express our gratitude to others all too often in a perfunctory manner rather than speaking from the heart and being or feeling truly grateful.
Whether you’re talking about characters in a story or real people—they tend to emulate each other—it seems it’s a good time to discuss some of the benefits of genuine gratitude. First the frank and blunt, and then the philosophical.
Yesterday at lunch in a restaurant, a child behaved badly. Really badly, not just a little badly where mom could lay a glare on him that’d stop a clock. He shouted at his mother, struck her, and threw a tantrum. Honestly, my jaw was on the floor and I thought, Thank your lucky stars he doesn’t belong to you. Immediately afterward, I thought, Son, thank your lucky stars you don’t belong to me. It would definitely be time to walk outside and talk consequences. Actually, long past time.
In an unrelated incident, I was contacted by a stranger who’d read one of my books. That person was going through a hard time and considering suicide. My first thought: Selfish and arrogant move. Definitely the wrong move. Second thought: How dare you be so ungrateful for your life! How dare you? Sincere anger followed. Third thought: Poor angel is struggling and crying out for help finding solutions.
In a third, again unrelated incident, one was hospitalized and ignoring all medical advice. Refused to take meds, refused to do a thing required to get better, refused to listen to a word of explanation from anyone on why it was essential to heed advice, take the meds and listen so the person would be able to heal. First thought: This person doesn’t want to get well. Second thought: This person isn’t grateful for the ability to heal. So many would give anything—everything—just for the chance! Third thought: Why would this person rather die than heal? Is life that hard and unbearable, or is this a cry for attention?
Three very different cases of three people from different places with different beliefs and attitudes and circumstances in different stages of life. But there is a constant that has to do with gratitude.
Actually, with a lack of gratitude. The child isn’t grateful (or wasn’t at the time) that he has a mother, food, or a dining-out outing that’s a treat. The potential-suicide individual (who sincerely wanted to be talked out of committing suicide) was crying out for reminders of why life is worth living even when life is hard. The hospital patient? Why go to the hospital for help to heal if you’ve got everything and everyone who can and is willing to help you heal on ignore?
We don’t know the reasons, but the absence of gratitude is evident. Now, in fairness, there could be a bit of a cry for help in all cases, or a bid for attention, but at the core, an absence of gratitude remains. When we’re balanced, it’s easy to see that. When we’re not, it can be much more difficult, and we must view these situations through compassionate eyes. Rarely is compassion our first or second thought. Typically, we have to dig a little for it. We have to work past our own filters and stretch beyond where we are and attempt to place ourselves where they are.
This all got me to thinking and asking myself, How much in my life do I genuinely appreciate? Do I too lack gratitude?
Important questions. We tend to take so many things for granted that are grueling trials or simply unattainable efforts for others. An example. Having temporarily blurred vision would be welcome to someone with no vision. A sore foot would be a blessing to someone who has no foot. A toothache would be welcome to one with no teeth and unable to chew. What’s my point? Simple. We forget to count our blessings. To express our gratitude for everything that’s right in our lives when it’s right in our lives.
Oh, we remember to gripe when things go wrong. But we don’t always pause to notice the many things that go right—and we should.
This exploration on my mind, I shared a phone call with a friend who passed along a saying—you know I’m fond of them—from a relative. I’m sharing from memory so I won’t get this exactly right, as in a direct quote, but as close as I can. The saying was actually a question. One worth asking for us and worth asking on behalf of our characters.
What if today we only get what we were thankful for yesterday?
Think about that a minute. Let it play over in your mind. Think back to yesterday and do your best to recall every single thing you expressed gratitude for in your life.
Odds are, your list was as lacking as mine, which makes the possibility of it happening downright spooky, doesn’t it? That one, simple question builds a compelling case to have a strong attitude of gratitude from the little things to the big ones—for everything—every day.
Simply put, we gain most in times of adversity. When things are sailing along, we rarely pause to examine anything. We enjoy the time we’re afloat and we make tracks toward whatever goals we might be pursuing. It’s when we suffer a smack down and are under pressure, experiencing challenges and trials, that we figure things out and work through issues. That’s when we’re grateful for things—typically, for whatever we’ve just lost or whatever is giving us grief.
So we don’t necessarily wake up in the morning grateful that we slept… in a bed… in a house with a roof, and that we have a family to love who loves us. Maybe we have no family and we’re grateful for that, but odds are we don’t wake up thinking about it. You see my point. We cruise right past these “ordinary” and “normal” (to us) things during the course of a “normal” day, and we shouldn’t. We should think about that question, and the implications of it.
We’ve all heard, Use it or lose it. I’m thinking that applies to brain power, physical strength, and many other things, including gratitude. We are either grateful or we become numb or blind or anesthetized to the things we should be grateful for—we take them for granted. Worse, we come to believe because we’ve had those things that we will always have them, or worse still, that we’re entitled to them.
When we discover that’s not the case, we’re often stunned. Annoyed. Angry. We want what we’ve had; it’s ours. We rail against the injustice of losing it, we get dark inside, and that darkness creeps into everything we touch and toward everyone with whom we interact.
That, I’ve discovered in my little exploration, is the result of an absence of gratitude. Because even in our darkest hours, we do find what we need to find to get out of the dark and back into the light. We notice the ignored. We tend to the broken. We seek that which we need to heal.
The answers we seek await us in gratitude. We simply must reach a place, as must our characters, where that truth is recognized and accepted, and then acted upon.
In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten news I didn’t want on trials I didn’t want. I’ve had lightning take out a new TV that was on a surge protector, take out a garage door opener—even the door wheels had to be replaced; the whole thing. My car tires had to be replaced and the sprinkler system went kaput, pouring out enough water to drown new plants just purchased and planted. It’s not, by any standards, been a stellar week full of joy around here. That said, others suffered far worse and, yes, some fared better. But during these trials is exactly when this message of gratitude came to me, and that single question– What if today we only get what we were thankful for yesterday?—changed my whole attitude toward all the events occurring in my corner of the world.
The news in my corner wasn’t horrible. I wasn’t struck hopeless, and there is an alternative. The TV was just a TV. We do have others—and now they are on a different kind of surge protector, which is great, considering we got popped by lightning again last night. This time, we didn’t lose anything. There’s a new door opener now, on a garage we do have, and it got new wheels, and there was no fire or visible damage. My car has new tires, and it rides great and it’s more quiet now during the ride, and Hubby isn’t fussing that it rides like a bad truck. He actually—after 30,000 miles—likes my car now!
My point? People (or characters) impact attitude and choose whether to be grateful for the good—even in times and situations that aren’t seen as good—or they ignore those opportunities. We decide whether to act out, to foster acting out; to wallow in a pit of despair or to look to see why we’re despairing; and to seek help when we don’t want it or to get a grip and seek it when we do. We choose. And once we choose, we must choose again and again—be persistent in focusing our view on the root source of the challenge and with compassion and wisdom finding gratitude in whatever we’re experiencing.
That’s not always easy to do. Sometimes, when pieces of your world are collapsing around your ears and the weight of the challenges is breaking your back and bowing your shoulders, finding gratitude is beyond hard. But it’s not impossible. Being hard is a signal to us to look deeper. To pause whatever we’re doing and to start counting our blessings. To express our gratitude . . . because what if that relative of my friend is right? What if today we only get what we were thankful for yesterday?
I expect we all would find our corners of the world far too barren. And that’s the point of this article. Live life abundantly. Aware. Deliberately. Live in gratitude. Then tomorrow, when you get what you were grateful for yesterday, your proverbial cup shall be running over…
© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is Down and Dead in Dixie. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.
Note: Her Perfect Life digital versions are currently on sale for $3.99. Twenty percent (20%) of net proceeds are being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.