Ask any group of small children what they are thankful for, and you’ll likely get the same responses: my family, my friends, my pet, my home. You may get one or two kids who have interesting things to add, like my brother-in-law who once famously told his whole 3rd grade class that he was thankful for Kermit the Frog! But for the most part, the answers will be pretty standard. It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in our lives.
But can we be thankful for things that are difficult?
Gratitude is more than just ticking off the checkboxes of good things in our lives. It can be a daily practice of looking for good in all things, especially those things which don’t appear to be that good on the surface.
I work at a university, and when we returned from the pandemic lockdown, our campus post office stopped delivering mail to our offices every day, sticking to once a week. There were a lot of valid reasons for this decision, but it meant that on the other days, I had to walk across campus to pick up the mail myself.
Here was my initial reaction to this new situation:
This stinks! This is NOT in my job description. At my age I have to schlep all the way across campus and lug the mail back all by myself? This isn’t fair! What if the packages are heavy? I shouldn’t have to carry them!
After a few weeks, I realized that my grumpy attitude was not serving me, and was in fact seeping into other areas of my work. I had to figure out a way to be ok with this new situation. And I found the answer in the practice of gratitude. Each time I made a trip to the campus post office, I challenged myself to find something to be grateful for in the experience, and to write it down when I returned to my office. Here were some things that made it onto my list:
The pretty blossoms on the flowering trees
Running into a co-worker I hadn’t seen in a long time
The fresh air and warm gentle breezes
Getting to know the mailroom staff a little better each time I visited
The chance to stretch my legs after sitting at my desk for so long
The list kept getting longer and longer and it changed my whole attitude toward this aspect of my job. Being grateful for things that are difficult doesn’t come naturally. But if you work at it, practicing a little bit each day, it will become an automatic response.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I challenge you to think of something that really bugs you. It can be something small and silly, or something bigger. Try to find some way to be grateful for that thing, and see how that act of gratitude changes your perspective in a way you might not have thought possible.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash