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The Timelessness of Gratitude by Peni Jo Renner

As the holidays approach, it’s customary to count one’s blessings. Anticipation of spending time with family and friends and an abundance of good food warm the hearts of many this time of year. But I’m here to remind you gratitude is not a seasonal thing—it’s daily. And more than that, it’s timeless.

There’s no such thing as a “small” blessing. Let’s get that out of the way. An example of a “small” blessing may be that someone pulls out of the perfect parking spot just as you need it, thus shaving off a few minutes so that you aren’t late for an appointment. You may even mutter gratefully under your breath, “Oh, thank goodness!” as the stranger pulls out and you proceed into that perfect spot. A “big” blessing (or, more specifically, a more significant blessing) would be receiving the news a biopsy proved a tumor was benign.

A sense of gratitude takes root early in life. A four-year-old in his new big-boy bed can be grateful his night light keeps “The Thing in the Closet” away. A middle schooler releases a grateful sigh after she’s played her piano solo flawlessly at a recital. A young mother feels  wave of gratitude when, after losing sight of her toddler in a department store for a frightening moment, the child appears unharmed.

As we age, life offers us more defining moments and bigger challenges, perhaps most of them having to do with our health and wellbeing. This past September I had a total of six routine doctor visits, all with relatively good results, I’m happy to report. But the day will likely come when I get some not-so-good news. And that’s when our “attitude of gratitude” can be shattered.

“Why me?”

“How can this happen?”

“I don’t deserve this diagnosis/job loss/breakup!”

Those are the times our inner strength and faiths are really tested. It’s easy to be grateful when times are good and our lives flow smoothly, free of chaotic hurdles. But how many of us can retain that gratitude when despair threatens like a thundercloud over our souls?

Knowing these hurdles loom over the horizon doesn’t necessarily help us prepare for them. There will be bad news. There will be loss. There will be pain. It’s how we manage the journey through the darker times that matter.

And that’s where a mature sense of gratitude comes in.

“I’m so grateful we had fifty-two years together.”

“I’m glad Mom’s not suffering anymore.”

“If I hadn’t lost that job and applied for this one, I’d have never met him/her.”

Perspective. Keeping things in perspective is key. If we can, with our mature eyes, broaden our perspective, maybe we can embrace the fact that this earthly life is, after all, temporary and we can’t get so attached to it that we are irreparably crushed when Fate throws us a curveball.

I propose that it’s not just while we sit at the holiday table surrounded by loved ones that we feel and express gratitude. I suggest we focus, the best we can, on gratitude as we’re in the midst of pain, loss and grief. It’s after experiencing such times that, at least for me, I come through stronger and better in every way.

And for that, I am grateful.

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