The power of gratitude

If there is anything that people are good at it is complaining. It doesn’t seem to matter how blessed some people are, they will find something to complain about. When I served as a pastor we had a family in the church who had a child in a children’s hospital. People had collected money to help them cover their personal expenses while they stayed with him. I went to visit them and saw a scene that has remained with me to this day.

While sitting in the waiting room two small boys began to play fight. They were having fun, and it was fun to watch them, until one of them reached up, jerked off his wig and threw it at the other boy. Immediately, the second one did the same throwing his wig at the first boy. They both laughed at what they did. I smiled, but I couldn’t help but think of how small my problems were compared to what they were going through. I’ve told many people since then if they think they are having a bad time they should walk through a children’s hospital.

I see people rioting on television because they didn’t get what they wanted. I see newly elected people in Congress attacking the President with vulgar profanities. On college campuses I see young people (and in too many cases their professors) acting like spoiled brats because someone with whom they disagree is invited to speak on their campus. I see business owners and corporate heads setting policies without any regard for how they might impact their employees or customers. What each of these examples have in common is that they demonstrate a complete lack of gratitude.

When did university students and their professors forget that an important part of education is listening to all viewpoints to help shape their own worldviews? When did elected politicians stop being grateful for the freedom to be elected to office to provide leadership to our nation? How difficult is it for someone in leadership to pause long enough to tell an associate how much his or her efforts are appreciated? What do you think that would do for the associate? What ever happened to putting the customer first? One large retail chain has reduced their work force so much that a customer is lucky to find anyone to wait on them. I was in one of the stores recently and rang the “Customer service bell” several times before someone finally showed up. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I left that store believing they were grateful for my business.

When we become grateful people our entire personalities change. We become enjoyable to be around. We are better able to motivate others. We are more attractive to other people. Who wants to be around a chronic complainer? When people want to be around us they also will want to do business with us. That should make us even more grateful!

How difficult is it to be grateful? If you woke up this morning on this side of the grass, you should be grateful. If you live in a free country that allows you to do the work you enjoy doing, live where you want to live, marry who you want to marry, earn the living you want to earn and offers you the opportunity to change the things you don’t like about your life, you should be grateful. Not everyone has those opportunities.

If you struggle to be grateful I encourage you to do something. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write down everything wrong about your life, and on the other side write down the good things in your life. See which side fills up the quickest. Now, look at everything you wrote down that’s wrong in your life and think about what you can do to change that. Perhaps some of those things can’t be changed such as a chronic illness or a disability of some sort, but I bet most of them can be changed if you’re willing to make the necessary changes. The good news is you have the freedom to make those changes, and that alone should make you grateful.

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