Gratitude seems to be trendy right now. It is the trait buzzing around Christian blogs, but it’s not limited to followers of Christ. Today a money-wise newsletter I read had gratitude listed as it’s number one way to beat unhappiness. It’s interesting to see this virtue get some good press.
Nine and a half years ago when my life was upended by civil unrest in Cote d’Ivoire, I returned to the States with a carry-on bag, exhaustion, and a little bit of trauma. My attention span was shot. Reading a few verses from the Bible could take an hour or more. A 30 minute TV program taxed my abilities to focus. My Ministry Director, a very wise man, challenged me to do no more than write down three to five things I was grateful for every day.
As easy as that seems, it proved to be a monumental task a few times. I remember getting to the end of my thankfulness list for the day and concluding, “Thank you, Lord, that today is over.” There were other days when gratitude flowed through my brain, down my arm, out my pen, and onto page after page of my journal. Every day was different.
When I saw my Ministry Director next it was three and a half months after evacuation. We’d talked on the phone a few times, but this was our first face to face in a while. Towards the end of our conversation he said something along the lines of, “You’re so joyful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this joyful before. What’s making the difference?” My only answer was that of being intentionally thankful every day.
For most of the last decade I’ve maintained that discipline of gratitude. Some days I sloshed with it. Other days, it was scraping the proverbial bottom of the barrel.
In the last year or so, I’ve lost the habit of intentionality in this discipline. I’m not sure where it happened, but things seem to have sloughed off around my first Achilles surgery. Pain and painkillers may have contributed to the lack of writing. It’s not that I haven’t been thankful in the last 15 months. I simply haven’t been intentional about it.
I’m trying to change. I know I need to change for my own well being. I know I need to change in order to lead well in the coming months. I know I need to set the example for my interns and for the TCKs I will be face to face with all summer.
For those who live in between worlds, it’s easy to lose perspective on the blessings that permeate life. We get too overwhelmed with missing part of one world, that we neglect to recognize the gifts that surround us in the next part of our world. We can even disparage one part of our life in favor of the next.
I want to be a good example of one who is truly thankful. I want gratitude to ooze out of my pores and rub off on those around me. I want to help those in my sphere of influence learn how to ooze even better than I do. My thoughts have been challenged this week about changing lesson plans and creating an atmosphere in my “classroom” that promotes an attitude of gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s blog has some great ideas. I’m open to those and more.
How do you approach gratitude? How do you promote it in others?
image of blank notebook paper courtesy of xymonau on rgbstock.com; words and doodles added from picnik.com which is sadly closing in a few weeks.