Thoughts on Gratitude
When I took my dogs, Roger and Violet, out this morning, the birds were singing. It had stormed during the night and early morning hours, but the rain had passed for the moment. Listening to the songs floating through the air, I thought How grateful they must be for a new day. It got me thinking about gratitude and the role it has played in our lives, particularly since the death of our son, Lacy.
Years ago, I learned the power of gratitude to uplift and encourage in hard times. Lacy was in the hospital, on a ventilator, with strep pneumonia. All together, he would be there for over a month. The first three weeks were the worst, since he was in ICU and we could only visit three times a day. I'd go in during the visiting hours and pray for our son, put lotion on his feet and hands, and read a story to him from his picture Bible. What relieved my anxiety the most, however, was the time I took to express gratitude. I'd list out loud what I was thankful for - a sunny day, attentive nurses, a good night's sleep - and the heaviness would be lifted. Intentionally looking for things or people to express gratitude to or for made the long road to recovery a bit easier.
This weekend we had a chance to spend time with good friends. These are folks we've known since college days. It was obvious that we were grateful to be spending time together. Playing games, visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and just catching up with one another over shared meals, we expressed our gratitude for being together. Each of us has different joys and challenges, but we all share a desire to take time to be thankful for what we have, and where we are in life.
Gratitude has made it possible for us to walk through the difficult days since Lacy left us. We miss him, and look forward to seeing him again. But we most often express gratitude for the time we had with him, and the joy we experienced together.
This last week, I spend time with my siblings going through our parents' photos and keepsakes. We learned so much about Mom and Dad through correspondence they kept over the years, and through sharing the stories we'd heard from them. As we looked through pictures, and read letters, we were so grateful that we could walk through this task of organizing the documentation of our parents' lives together. We laughed and wept together.
I've kept a journal since Lacy died, and have saved a few newspaper clippings that have meant a lot to me. One of the clippings is an essay on gratitude given as a Thanksgiving Day address by our then-governor, Mike Beebe. Here is a quote from that address:
When we are giving thanks, when we are showing gratitude, that is when we have power. And here's why. When you are truly gracious, when your mind is set upon grace and gratitude, there is one thing you cannot have, and that is fear.
I agree with Governor Beebe. Gratitude is a powerful force to heal and transform our thinking from powerlessness and fear to hope and renewal. "In everything give thanks..." I Thessalonians 5: 18a