Practicing Gratitude and Experiencing Joy at Thanksgiving
November 22, 2022
Last year at Thanksgiving, in my article, "How to be Truly Thankful at Thanksgiving," I shared with you my thoughts on, and approach to, being grateful.
I mentioned that many years ago, to strengthen my personal gratitude, I created a list of things that I'm particularly grateful for, and since that time, make a habit of reviewing that list once per month.
The list started with an appreciation for my three daughters, Acacia, Lauryl and Sophia, who were very young at the time.
The original reminders included, "Appreciate TODAY with the girls," "Enjoy their youth AND every stage of growth and maturity," and "Say 'I love you' every time it comes to mind."
One of the reminders that I didn't share with you from that original list was more personal, which is perhaps why I didn't share it, but I want to share it with you now.
"Imagine how I would feel if one of the girls were gone or disabled or afflicted with a disease. How much would I wish for them to be perfectly healthy again! I would hug and hold them tight and cry."
As I said in my article last Thanksgiving, to really appreciate the things in life that you value most, to be most thankful, you need to visualize, as vividly as you can, a situation where you would be truly grateful.
This reminder about my daughter's health is one of the ways that I do that.
On July 20, 2021, this reminder became a reality for me and my family when my middle daughter, Lauryl, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
A year-and-a-half later, I still read this same reminder about the girl's health, but my gratitude has shifted slightly, as it inevitably would.
Now I'm grateful that Lauryl wasn't diagnosed as a very young child, like my older brother's daughter who was only four years old when she found out she had diabetes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but it appears at two noticeable peaks. The first peak occurs in children between 4 and 7 years old. The second is in children between 10 and 14 years old."
Lauryl was just two weeks shy of her seventeenth birthday when her doctor, concerned about her significant weight loss, checked her blood sugar and told us to drop everything and head to the hospital immediately so Lauryl could start treatment for diabetes.
It was a real shock to everyone, especially to a teenager whose life was just starting, and would now be changed forever.
However, as part of that second peak group, and even a few years beyond, Lauryl was actually fortunate to enjoy seventeen years of "normalcy" that my niece and so many other children with diabetes never had.
For this, I'm grateful!
I'm also grateful that management of diabetes today is much, much better than it was even five years ago.
Lauryl moved quickly from pricking her finger to test blood sugar several times each day to a wearable continuous glucose monitor that provides feedback to her smart phone (and mine) every five minutes so she can more closely control her blood sugar (and I'm alerted if it goes too high or too low).
She also moved from needle injections of insulin to a wearable insulin pump within six months of her diagnosis, allowing her to lead a more normal life like the rest of us.
And, to be clear, through it all, Lauryl and I did cry together when the overwhelm of this change to her life became too much for her to accept.
I'm grateful that my support was enough to help her past the rough spots, and that she's more at peace with her new life and not letting diabetes hold her back from moving on to college and building a wonderful future for herself.
Your Glass is Always Half-full
Gratitude is not only a mindset, it's a habit.
For those of you who read my article from last Thanksgiving, I'd like to ask a couple important questions.
Have you started your own list of things to be grateful for?
If you did, congratulations!
Have you made a reminder to review and think about your list on a regular basis, i.e. weekly, monthly, or at least quarterly?
If so, congratulations again!
You've made practicing gratitude a habit, which will increase your appreciation for all that is positive in your life.
Practicing gratitude can even turn that which might be less positive (like my daughter's diabetes) into something that can also be appreciated.
From this perspective, your glass of life will always be half-full rather than half-empty, and you are sure to have more joy in your life.
As the theologian David Steindl-Rast says, “The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."
Enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends.
Be grateful for anyone and everyone that is included in your holiday festivities, family you've known all your life and new friends you might be meeting for the first time.
Appreciate the meal you will share, whether it's as simple as a can of soup or a grand spread with all your family's traditional holiday dishes.
Through this gratitude, you will experience an abundance of joy on Thanksgiving.
When you return to work, help others to practice gratitude as well, so they can find joy, and never forget to always stay...
Focused on your freedom!
Listen to the podcast episode: #035 Thankfulness & Gratitude