Years ago, I read an article by a woman who had just come through a pretty serious bout of depression. Her husband had been sent overseas for a year. Her mom had fallen ill. Her child was in the thick of the terrible twos. “Little” things like a roof-ripping hailstorm, a perpetually unreliable mailman, and 10 pounds of weight gain kept piling atop the bigger things. Oddly enough, the article was about gratitude. At rock bottom, when her energy was at an all-time low, the writer made a conscious decision to mend her spirit by doing for others. She volunteered at a local hospice. She brought clothes and toys to a homeless shelter. She made weekly homemade-cookie deliveries to a homebound neighbor. At first, she did these things to stave off self-pity. But the end result was learning that gratitude is medicine.
Gratitude makes you beautiful from the inside out. It’s better than any amount of homemade chicken soup, better than wine-by-the-fire at the end of a long day, better than Botox on a crunched-up forehead. Sometimes we get so used to repeating thanks for the same ol’, same ol’ (our health, our friends, our homes, our families) that we start to not feel the gratitude in an authentic way. Repeat the same words often enough, and you can lose the spirit behind them. Maybe that’s why it was so helpful to that woman to change her vantage point on the world. In doing so, she saw her life in a new context and managed to cast light on blessings she’d unconsciously been paying mere lip-service to. What’s more, she learned what it feels like to be the object of someone else’s gratitude. Powerful medicine.
Many of us will be sitting around tables this week giving thanks. May I suggest that as we do that, we also think of ways to change our vantage point on our little worlds, to cast new light on all that’s good in our lives? Then, as we step out of the Thanksgiving season and into December, maybe we can bring even more beauty into our lives by becoming the object of someone else’s gratitude—by bringing beauty into the lives of others.