An Attitude of Gratitude

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Since today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I thought that some words about having what I like to call “an attitude of gratitude” would be appropriate. So here goes.

The story is told of Mike and Charlie, two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. Mike looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend, Charlie, asked him, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”

Mike said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money,” said Charlie.

Mike continued. “But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars free and clear.”

“Sounds like you’ve been blessed,” Charlie responded.

“You don’t understand!” Mike interrupted. “Last week, my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million dollars.”

Now Charlie was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” he asked.

Mike replied, “This week – nothing!”

That is the trouble with receiving something on a regular basis. Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it. We have been blessed to live in a land of plenty and as a result we become complacent and many times we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything. I am reminded of the little boy who, on his return from a school party, was asked by his mother,  “Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?” Bobby answered, “Well, I was going to, but the girl ahead of me said, ‘Thank you,’ and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn’t.” It almost seems that we have to be trained to express gratitude, doesn’t it?

“Attitude is everything” we say.  Well, it is no different when it comes to thanksgiving. The attitude we carry with us through life is of paramount importance if we are truly to live lives that demonstrate our gratitude.

I suspect that not everyone feels particularly thankful on this day of national thanksgiving. Perhaps the pain of life has overwhelmed them to the point where they do not see any more how blessed they truly are. Like so many people today, maybe they have been so blessed, that even those blessings do not look all that good anymore.

How, then, can we overcome such a mindset of dispiritedness and turn it more towards a true spirit of thanksgiving in a culture that teaches us to enter into the rat-race and compete for status with a world of un-thankful people? Well, I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do believe that at the very least we need to recognize the blessings that we have come to take for granted. If we focus on what we have rather than on what we do not have, I believe that our attitude of gratitude will improve.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will improve our attitude of gratitude:

  • Be thankful that you do not already have everything you want because if you did, what would there be to look forward to?
  • Be thankful when you do not know something because this gives you the opportunity to learn.
  • Be thankful for the difficult times because during those times you can grow.
  • Be thankful for your limitations because they give you opportunities for improvement.
  • Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build strength and character.
  • Be thankful for your mistakes because they can teach you valuable lessons.
  • Be thankful when you are tired and weary because it means you have made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things in life, but a life of true fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks in life. As hard as it may be, we should try to find a way to even be thankful for our troubles. Who knows, they may become our blessings.

The following story from the Peanuts carton strip illustrates this last point. In the cartoon, good old Charlie Brown brings out Snoopy’s dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But it is just his usual dog food in a bowl. Snoopy takes one look at the dog food and thinks, “This isn’t fair. The rest of the world today is eating turkey with all the trimmings, but because I’m a dog, all I get is dog food.” He stands there for a moment and stares at his dog food and then muses, “I guess it could be worse. I could be a turkey!”

You know, there is always something for which to be thankful.

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 Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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