Gratitude. Does it seem like you hear people expressing their “gratitude” all the time these days? For most of my life, I almost never heard the word. When I was growing up, we said “thank you”; we found simple ways to show our appreciation to those who supported us in all kinds of ways, and we tried to pay it back in kind. If I would think about the word gratitude, I’d find myself thinking I needed to learn how to go deep inside myself in meditation. That could be super interesting, but was that me?
Certain life events can unfold, however, that unexpectedly bring a new perspective. I’ve come to appreciate gratitude, not in a deep meditative way, but in a simple day-to-day, seeking “good” way. Maybe it's not my mind’s traditional definition of gratitude, but it works for me. It works because it helps me seek good, joy, appreciation for what I have each and every day, and I get to share it with those I love.
I come from a large (five children), close-knit family, mid-western at our roots. Unlike most of our relatives, we moved across the country. This made our already close-knit family even closer. Beginning in 2007, we unexpectedly lost my mother and then my younger brother to cancer, each very quickly, over the course of just three years. Both were too young; both had been super-healthy, until they weren’t. My dad was our focal point and through him we four remaining kids were always connected.
But, of course, life happens. My dad had his own health issues and died in 2018. This is where “gratitude” took a concrete form in my life with my family. As we were all getting ready to leave South Bend/Mishawaka, Indiana after my dad’s funeral, one of my sisters suggested to us that, to help lift us each day, we send each other a simple text saying what we’re grateful for.
Sometimes I’ve been grateful for an exciting new experience, like standing under a powerful, pounding waterfall. At other times, I’ve been grateful for my quick chat with the Park Rangers that take care of Independence Mall near my apartment in Philly. Even on those days when the doldrums set in, as they do for all of us, I find something. It may be super simple, but I will find something I will share. The result – in addition to building even closer connections with my brother and sisters, it means each day I LOOK for what is good, recognize what I may not have otherwise, to find what I will want to share. That's really kind of nice.
Our simple idea of a “grateful text”, so easy to put into action, has kept us going since Fall 2018. And, for me, it embodies the meaning of “gratitude”. It’s not a trend, it helps me look for and share what is good in my day-to-day life. And it will be there even when the term “gratitude” is less in vogue.