Sunday, November 27, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

It is at this time of the year when gratitude is truly abundant.  Starting around the Thanksgiving season, and typically ending about a week or two after New Year's Day, people become more and more giving and grateful for the things which they have.

I am grateful for this season where the focus is on gratitude and looking outward to helping others.

This is the season when charitable donations increase; this is the season when holiday cheer runs high; this is the season when community and neighborhood works help all to be happier.  This is the season when the overall morale of people increases because they are willing to be grateful and look outward to help those around them.

Although I love this season, I would like to ask, why is it that this occurs during one part of the year?  Do we feel that if we are grateful and charitable enough during this time of the year that it will cover our selfishness during the rest of the year?  Or is it that we become too involved with the mundane things in our lives during the rest of the year that we forget to be grateful and charitable?

To me, thinking about those questions is quite sobering.  I ask myself if I am grateful and charitable only during that time of the year, or if I strive to keep the holiday spirit alive all year long.  Sure, there will be times when I will not be charitable to those around me or even grateful for what I have, and I will long for things that I do not have, but am I at least trying to keep it with me?

Lately, I have seen on Facebook many of my friends making grateful statements for the things which they have (many of which are family and friends).  I deeply appreciate those statements, because they help me to remember what I am blessed with, and not to focus on the things that I lack.

The statements are inspiring and allow me to reflect on those things which I may have taken for granted.  That reflection actually starts a train of thought which gets me thinking about other things which I have taken for granted.  The train of thought inspires a wave of gratitude, and I cannot help but to smile and be happier about the world around me.

Instead of the world appearing dark and gloomy, it instead appears delightful and full of beauty.  My heart is full of joy and love for everything around me.  My wants turn from me to those around me, and my charitable actions increase.

There are times when it is not easy to find anything to be grateful about.  Sadness, anger, envy, defeat, and depression can occur at any time.  When those feelings arise, the world is a very bleak and dreary place where gratitude is the last thing on your mind.  Even when those feelings arise, there are small and inconsequential things which you can be grateful for.

When I lived in Spain, there were days when I was very downtrodden and depressed.  It was pretty apparent that I was not my normal self to those around me.  It would get them into a depressed mood, and then the group of us would be kind of down.  It wasn't fun, and none of us wanted to do anything but complain and moan about things in general.

So, when I would notice myself feeling that way, I would take a detour before arriving.  I knew that one person's outlook could dramatically change the group's dynamic, so I knew that I had to be happy so that at least there would be someone who was happy.  What I would do during that detour was try to find something to be grateful for.  Even when things were really bad, if I was grateful for something, it would quickly spread to other things, and then I would be smiling and be happy.

I eventually found something to be grateful for that was almost always there: the sidewalk.  Yes, the sidewalk.  In my mind, I would picture it talking to me (the sidewalk would have a cartoonish face), saying "thank you for stepping on me!"

I would usually laugh at that, and then think of other things for which I could be grateful.  I sometimes wonder if people thought I was crazy, because I would suddenly start laughing.

Anyway, I digress.

This holiday season is a time for gratitude and charity.  It is a time for us to remember what we have, to focus on what we have, and to remember and help those who don't have what they need.  It is a time for us to stop looking inward--stop with the "me first" mentality, and think about those around us; to focus on increasing the overall goodwill of our neighborhoods and communities.

The first thing we can do to achieve this is to be grateful for the small things in our lives, the things which are so often taken for granted.  We need to thank our family for loving us.  We need to thank our friends who are there when we need them.  In my case, I need to thank the sidewalk for letting me step on its face over and over and over again.

Be grateful.  That's the first step.

As we become more and more grateful, we will feel a desire to go out and help others.  We will want to share what we have with others to increase their happiness.  We do not need to help solely with money, but rather with time.  I understand that time is difficult to give, but by so doing, we will be more able to help and we will see a greater amount of gratitude and happiness in our lives.  It will strengthen our communities and neighborhoods.

Giving is the second step.  Give of your time and resources to better the lives around you.

Most people enjoy this time of year because of the gratitude and giving.  Keep the holiday spirit with you all year long.  Be grateful and give.

You can make a positive change to your neighborhood, community, state, and country as you try to keep the holiday spirit alive in you.

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