It's a choice we make every day, the choice not to focus on what we don’t have but to embrace and appreciate what we do have. It’s the choice to live with a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.
That truth came home to me forcibly one day when I met Samuel. He was seven years old and had never walked; polio had robbed him of that privilege. I’d travelled by motorbike with a physiotherapy assistant, way beyond roads and even dirt tracks, to a small mud brick house in the bush in Burkina Faso.
Samuel crawled to the front door to meet us, obviously pleased to see us even though he knew that the next hour would mean a lot of pain. Slowly and carefully his leg muscles were massage and stretched … deeper and deeper into the tissue until eventually he was able to stand with calipers in a walking frame.
As I sat in the dust and dirt surrounded by scrawny chickens pecking for that elusive bit of grain, I saw that moment of joy and excitement as Samuel took a few steps on his not-yet-ready-to walk-alone legs. But he was upright, he was moving and he was beaming with hope. Hope that one day he would be able to live with dignity … not crawling on all fours, but walking with his head high … running and playing like other children … able to be a useful member of the family and no longer a-hidden-away-embarrassment.
I asked the physio how long before Samuel would be able to walk on his own, “about twelve months”, he said. Twelve months of painful exercise but administered with great compassion and love. Twelve months of joyful anticipation of a life changed forever.
Gratitude can be life changing. It changes your mood and lightens your spirit. There is growing scientific evidence that gratitude activates the hypothalamus, which is responsible for such bodily functions such as hunger, sleep, metabolism and stress levels. Gratitude helps the hypothalamus do its job more efficiently so grateful people often sleep better and recover quicker from stressful situations. They are more positive and suffer less depression. Science is also finding that gratitude has a powerful impact on our immune and cardiovascular health.
And gratitude can be contagious … don’t you love being around a truly grateful person! Have you ever noticed the visible lift of the shoulders and look of surprise or delight when you take a moment to thank a stranger who has been kind in some way. What an example for our children … parents who live with a grateful heart model gratitude to their children, helping them develop into grateful adults.
In a world where we are bombarded daily with man’s inhumanity to man, it’s good to be reminded that two of the most powerful forces in the universe, love and gratitude, are free and ours to choose to enjoy and to give away to make a difference in our corner of the world.
I've been keeping a gratitude journal before I go to bed each night ... just three things I've been grateful for that day... it's often the small things, a cool breeze after a long hot day, a hug from a friend, sunrise, sunset, a phone call from someone who cares, a warm bed, raindrops on thirsty soil, an opportunity to help a friend .... it's nice to go to sleep with a grateful heart.
What are you most grateful for? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.