“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” – Oprah Winfrey
“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie
Without even thinking, when people are happy about an issue’s outcome, they’ll say “Thank goodness!”, “Thank God!”, or even “Praise the Lord!” It’s almost a conditioned response.
Are they truly grateful, or just relieved?
I grew up in a nice middle class family with parents, grandparents, and a little sister who loved me. I’m one of 22 first cousins on my dad’s side, and I have a nice extended family on my mom’s side as well. We had the normal assortment of family upsets and illnesses, and some months we were very tight in our budgets, but overall I had quite a lot to be thankful for.
As I meandered through my life, I made some good choices and some not-so-good choices, but I am blessed with a wonderful husband, three beautiful children, five adorable grandchildren, and that same little sister, who still loves me. I even have two stepsisters and their families now.
This time last year, I’d just had a wonderful big family birthday party and a long-awaited trip to Hawaii. It was wonderful. But I was so stressed by work, minor health issues, and things happening with some friends and family, that I really wasn’t as grateful at the time as I should have been. In fact, I was so down last December that I did no Christmas letter for the first time in 25 years. Yikes.
“If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart.” ― Socrates
With a truly grateful heart this Thanksgiving, I can tell you I’ve made some major adjustments in my perspective. My beloved husband helped me figure out how to retire earlier this year to give me relief from those pressures and precious time with my ailing mother. And I came to terms with a number of things:
- I am a cancer survivor, and my health will never be perfect. I have other issues, which may someday affect my mobility, but for now they just remind me to take care of myself. I am not in chronic pain, I can see, hear, walk, write, and travel. I can’t change anyone else’s condition, but my husband, children, and grandchildren all have fairly stable health. I am very fortunate.
- I will never be rich or famous, have a grand home, or own a Mercedes. My beloved and I have a nice home, serviceable economy cars, and we are working hard to make sure we have properly financed our retirement so he can retire as well in the near future. The economy is challenging us, but we’ll work through it.
- I’ve made mistakes I can’t change. I can think of a million moments I’d redo to make my marriage and my children’s lives more perfect, or to improve on my friendships. I’ve neglected prayer sometimes. Still, I have a wonderful family. My children are all grown with families of their own; I have some great friends and an amazing life partner. God has been forgiving and good to me.
So there you have it – health, sufficient wealth, family, friends, and faith. I have everything I need, and more. If I’m really honest, I actually have everything I want and more. I have learned to concentrate on the things I can change. I am seriously blessed, and seriously grateful.
“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” ― Pearl S. Buck
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ― Socrates
My life is certainly not perfect; nobody’s is. And I know life doesn’t come with guarantees. It’s fragile and things can change in a heartbeat. I don’t want to take a single moment for granted.
“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.” ― Lao Tzu
And so on this Thanksgiving Day, let me offer you my prayers for health, whatever sustenance you need, spiritual well-being, and the closeness of family and friends. May these things come to you, stay with you, and offer you contentment and peace of mind.
If you are seriously grateful, contentment will follow. It’s not always easy, but go ahead, give it a try.
“Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well: and requires no less practice.” ― Alain de Botton