A few years ago I was talking with an angry young man. He was angry with his adoptive parents and with society in general. As a result of his anger he was making some very poor decisions that would not turn out well for him. I tried to explain to him that one reason he was so angry was that he was not grateful for the opportunities he had been given. He had been raised in a home with loving parents who tried to raise him with standards and morals. He had been given every opportunity to live a happy, successful life. But the fact was, he didn’t appreciate any of that, and he didn’t appreciate me telling him this either. He wanted to continue to make poor decisions, and as soon as he was legally able he left home. His life since then has not been a happy one in many ways.
One of the things that marks today’s society is that many of us are not grateful for the things we have. We are prone to compare what we have or what we do with others who may have more than us or have greater opportunities to succeed than we imagine we have. We become envious, jealous, and we forget to be thankful for what we do have. That lack of gratefulness leads us to be unhappy and sometimes to make poor decisions as we pursue those things we think will make us happy again.
This week Tennessee, especially the Nashville area, was hard hit with tornadoes. Many people lost their homes, and several lost their lives. While those who lost homes and businesses were understandably upset, every one of them interviewed by the media spoke of how thankful they were that they and their families had survived. As several remarked, houses and businesses can be rebuilt.
How many times have you known a cancer survivor speak of how grateful they were to be alive? Serious diseases have a tendency to put things into perspective. The pursuit of things becomes less important. We become grateful for family and friends who love us, the ones who treated our illnesses, and the fact that we can continue to share our lives with loved ones.
The next time you struggle with being grateful I invite you to spend time in a children’s hospital and see if your perspective doesn’t change. Visit a nursing home and spend time with someone who hasn’t seen a family member in months. Talk with someone who recently lost a spouse or a veteran who saw combat.
In a recent article I wrote how being successful is a good and honorable thing. Being grateful for what we have is even better and more honorable. It leads to greater happiness in life, a more generous spirit and a deeper appreciate for the things that matter most in life.