As the holiday season starts picking up speed, with Thanksgiving right around the corner for those who celebrate, this is the time of year when we receive more reminders than ever to give thanks for what we have. Friends and family, good health, a nice place to live… not everyone has those things, and they are worth being grateful for.
But there are many other things making our lives easy and comfortable. Things we have gotten so used to we probably never even think about them, let alone offer, thanks. When was the last time you put indoor plumbing on your gratitude list? Or cars, or roads to drive them on? Have you ever written about cell phone towers in your gratitude journal? They’re out there every day, making your life better.
The reason we remind ourselves and each other to be grateful is because genuine gratitude increases our happiness. It feels good to consider all of the comforts and blessings we possess, but it’s easy to stop looking at the blessings we see every day, the gifts that nearly everybody has. They’re so normal. That’s just life, right? But a lot of the blessings we don’t notice anymore are the ones we would be least ready to give up.
Hospice patient Helen (name changed) was 82 years old and dying of leukemia. She was once a painter, but due to age and illness, she had gone almost totally blind. As her sickness progressed, it became difficult for her to move around, but she was always cheerful and happy to chat with anyone who wanted to visit with her. Speaking with her care team, she talked about how she liked to thank the various parts of her body for doing their jobs. “Thank you, bones, for being strong,” she would say. “Thank you spine, for holding me up. Thank you stomach, for taking in delicious food to keep me going.” There was nothing too small for her to be thankful for.
This holiday season, when you consider your own blessings, take some time to think small. When you pull your cell phone out of your pocket to send a text, consider what a miracle it is that you can instantly communicate like that with someone far away. When you flip a light switch, think about how amazing it is that you can so easily fill your house with light in the darkness. Think about all the people who worked hard and solved problems to build this world full of technology and convenience… not just for you, but for everyone.
We live in a world filled with miracles. The sun comes up every morning. We can stream our favorite movies whenever we want to. Animals breathe oxygen and plants breathe carbon dioxide and we’re all keeping each other alive.
And yes, we also face hardship and struggle. That’s part of the human condition. But the bad stuff doesn’t cancel out the good stuff. All those little miracles keep going on, even when we’re distracted by grief or pain or just the general challenges of everyday life. Sometimes all we can see or deal with is whatever challenge we are currently being faced with, but sooner or later, when we are ready to step back and look around again, all the miracles are still going to be there. Just the same way they were there for you all along.