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This past Thanksgiving dinner at our neighbor’s, we went around the table so each person could name two reasons to be grateful.
This year we voiced our thanks for healed bones in time to participate on the school’s baseball team, thanks for loving parents, for the neighbor’s grandchildren who’ve adopted my husband and me as honorary grandparents, for living in Arizona where one sees the sun and can eat outdoors in November (as opposed to dining indoors after shoveling snow to make a path for family and friends to enter), and other thankful thoughts to which everyone could relate. I realized that out of a group of 15 people, not one person listed a material item.
I returned home giving much thought to the subject of gratefulness, and began to see how long a gratitude list I could make. This year:
- I’m grateful to have experienced, as a child, a family in financial difficulty. It taught me the difference between what I want and what I need. It also demonstrated the kindness and generosity of strangers who then became lifelong friends.
- I’m grateful to have had a fun-loving father who loved life and taught me to make each day and each moment one of joy. It’s all in the attitude.
- And speaking of attitude, my mother taught me to face difficulties, especially illnesses, with dignity and acceptance, while both of my parents demonstrated how important it is to maintain a sense of humor no matter how dire the circumstances.
- I’m grateful to my husband for 52 years of loving companionship and shared values, especially since our friends tried to talk us out of getting married and then took bets on how long we’d last. Fooled them!
- I’m grateful for my son and daughter who have learned that service to others is a part of living a whole life. Both are former Peace Corps volunteers and our son served his Baha’i Youth Year of Service in Botswana. Our daughter, an acupuncturist, participates in a periodic free clinic for veterans.
- I’m grateful for a daughter-in-law who calls us Mom and Dad and who dropped everything to come stay with us when my husband underwent heart surgery.
- I’m grateful to have learned at an early age to talk to God daily, share my fears and concerns, and my joys and successes—to pray for His guidance and to trust that He will hold my hand through all my trials and tribulations as well as be next to me in the “good” times.
- I’m grateful to have found the Baha’i Faith while in my mid-teens, and to have had its unifying principles become an integral part of my life.
I could go on and on, but enough of me. What are you grateful for? Do you face lots of tests in your life? Is it difficult sometimes to make sense of it all? Do you sometimes feel like there isn’t much in your life that impels your gratitude?
Try this: every night, take a moment to think of at least one thing you’re thankful for. Write it down. Let it turn into a gratitude list that you can read over from time to time. It will bring light when things seem dark; it will give you hope.
Hopefully, your gratitude list will grow long, and have a sustaining and optimistic impact on your spirit.
Abdu’l-Baha gave this powerful, sage advice about turning trouble into ease to a woman who lamented her challenges:
Grieve thou not over the troubles and hardships of this nether world, nor be thou glad in times of ease and comfort, for both shall pass away. This present life is even as a swelling wave, or a mirage, or drifting shadows. Could ever a distorted image on the desert serve as refreshing waters? No, by the Lord of Lords! Never can reality and the mere semblance of reality be one, and wide is the difference between fancy and fact, between truth and the phantom thereof.
Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye.
Rely upon God. Trust in Him. Praise Him, and call Him continually to mind. He verily turneth trouble into ease, and sorrow into solace, and toil into utter peace. He verily hath dominion over all things.
If thou wouldst hearken to my words, release thyself from the fetters of whatsoever cometh to pass. Nay rather, under all conditions thank thou thy loving Lord, and yield up thine affairs unto His Will that worketh as He pleaseth. This verily is better for thee than all else, in either world. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 177.