We’re currently wrapping up a season of gratitude in the U.S. that starts in November with Thanksgiving and runs through to Christmas. While being thankful is not isolated to a few months in the year, we seem to become more aware of the need to be grateful during this time.
We’re thankful for family and friends, food and shelter, gifts and opportunities. We remind children to say thank you or write thank-you notes for gifts received. We try to always be grateful for what they have.
But sometimes I wonder if we should also be grateful what we didn’t get. The missed opportunities for disaster. The close calls with death.
I heard an interview between social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, and motivational powerhouse Tony Robbins, that discussed gratitude. They both shared their system for staying grateful. Gary told how every morning, he pretends, just for a moment, that all his family members had been killed and how that puts everything in perspective for the rest of the day.
It is easy to be grateful for what’s in front of us — what we can see, hear, feel and touch. But how about everything else? There is so much that could happen in life. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Every day we’re alive and in one piece is a miracle.
When I get a text from my older sister asking for a favor, I’m reminded of her brush with death earlier this year. When I see the healing wounds on my husband’s hand, I think of how close he was to amputation. When I feel like complaining about little annoyances that some would deem “first world problems,” I think of how different — and harder — my life could have been if I had been in a different part of the world or grown up in a different family. The what-could-have-been elicits waves of gratitude in me.
So many in America like to complain about the “top 1%” of wage earners in the U.S. However, most of what we call “lower income” would be seen as rich in other parts of the world. In a land filled with social programs, free hot meals, clothing giveaways, and child sponsors, how can we not be grateful still? I knew a pastor of an inner city church who reminded his people every now and then how blessed they really were, despite their hardships, compared to elsewhere in the world.
This perspective is not meant to make you feel guilty. It is not meant for you to feel superior. I believe this perspective increases an attitude of gratitude. One that hopefully overflows into giving for others. Because no matter where you are in life, there is always something to be grateful for — not just for what you have, but for what you could have had.
There’s a song my family used to play when I was a kid that repeated the phrase “behind every dark cloud there’s a silver lining.” The truth of the matter is that, even in those “why me” times, things could always be worse. There’s always a reason to be thankful. Just sometimes you have to look at what could have been to find it.
What “could have been” scenario are you grateful for this year?