This is a crazy conflicting week! Today, I am walking with a family through arguably the most horrific thing any human can experience—the death of their 5 year-old son in a traffic accident caused by the reckless decision of another driver. From leading a funeral for a kindergarten student in the morning to welcoming my out-of-town 16 month-old twin grandchildren as Thanksgiving guests in our home later in the evening. You can’t find any more polar opposite emotions.
Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” She added, “It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Excellent thoughts to reflect on this during this week of Thanksgiving. Gratitude really does unlock the fullness of life. Even when you have been devastated by the death of your five year-old son.
As I sat with these grieving parents the other day to plan for little Nathan’s funeral, I asked them to share words that best described their beloved son. They smiled. They cried. They laughed and wept as they portrayed the unique personality and character of their boy through words and phrases. They expressed gratitude in so many different ways. They were grateful for a memorable family vacation in Tennessee – Nathan got to see snow for the first time, hiked in the Fall foliage, saw bears in the wild, and so much more. The tragic crash happened on their return to Florida.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Because this grief-stricken family is filled with gratitude for the few years and rich experiences they did have with their son, they can fully live. They feel the depth and stretch of emotions. Love. Sadness. Gratitude. Anger. Sorrow. Fear. Appreciation.
If we are missing gratitude in our lives, we will be limited to only a few emotions—the cortisol-releasing kind that destroy us from the inside out. If we choose gratitude, the many feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, etc.) will infiltrate our bodies and move us toward wellness and wholeness.
The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that gratitude is the answer to almost every problem we face. Think about it. Gratitude can transform anxiety, anger, discontent, grief, greed and depression. Gratitude may not change your circumstance, but it can change you and me. However, when gratitude transforms us, it may possibly change our circumstance. I love what a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast said, “You think this is just another day. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today…It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”
We want our lives to be filled with the overflowing cornucopia of gratitude—appreciation, gentleness, love, kindness, peace, purpose, abundance, beauty and joy. How do I get there? Here’s what I’m learning. I make a daily decision to live in gratitude. I receive God’s grace on a daily basis. I choose to appreciate the gifts that come into my life each day—even the challenges that help me to grow. So today, I will seek to live with intentional focus in the moments God gives me. Leading a funeral for a five year old or kissing my toddling twin grandbabies at the door. I will fully engage my heart with gratitude.
So this Thanksgiving week, and every week, make it a practice to see the opportunity in the crisis, the blessing in the disappointment, and the joy when it goes just like you want it to. When you do, gratitude will, indeed, become a way of living. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
QUESTION: What is one area of your life where you will choose gratitude this week? Please share it in the comment section below. Thank you!