I have wonderful friends, a supportive and loving family, a ridiculously happy marriage, and a stunning home. But I worry that sometimes I don't appreciated my good fortune for the wonderful things in my life.
When I was a young teenager I began to get a real understanding of the inequalities in the world. I had grown up with images of hardship, poverty & hunger like those from reports of famine in Ethiopia but there was a particular watershed moment for me when a television news program showed footage of orphaned children in an institution in Romania. Quite literally, the politics of the country had abandoned and was killing these children--Ceausescu's regime had refused to admit that there was HIV in the country and these kids were HIV positive. One image of an emaciated child has stayed with me all of my life. I decided then that it wasn't 'fair' that my life was so easy simply because of the family, socio-economic group and country that was mine through the happy accident of being born into it. I didn't earn it, it just was. I didn't think at the time to be grateful for what I have, instead I was indignant and angry at what other did not have.
Then a few years ago I was explaining a dilemma we had to a friend of mine. My partner and I had planned a trip overseas at the end of the year and we were very excited about it but the predicament was that my partner wasn't working. If he didn't find work, we would have serious trouble being able to afford the holiday but if he did find a long term position, he wouldn't be eligible for leave by the time the trip came up. The friend I was talking to (let's call him Greg) said,
"You'll be okay, you two always fall on your feet."
Greg's observation has stayed with me because it wasn't until then that I really looked at just how lucky I have been. Of course, my partner got a six month contract so that we had the funds for the holiday but none of the hassles of having to get time off for our trip.
It's dumb luck really but I'm grateful. And I made a conscious decision to firstly realise how fortunate I am and secondly to be more grateful for the really quite amazing life that I have.
Today I had further cause to review my thoughts on gratitude. On my way home, I pulled over for a hitch-hiker. The woman explained that she was trying to get to her son's place to see him but the buses were running so infrequently that she decided to see if anyone would stop. She asked if I could just drop her at the corner of her son's street a little way along the road so she could walk up to her son's house. I wasn't in a hurry and said I'd drop her right there. At this offer she started to cry.
It made me think again about how lucky I am and that perhaps we sometimes take kindnesses shown to us for granted. It was an offer I made in an offhand way, driving two minutes out of my way to make sure she wasn't trudging uphill in the heat of the afternoon and yet she cried. How little kindness must have been showed to this woman in her life that such an offer produced tears of gratitude? It's a reminder to be thankful but maybe it's a reminder to be kind as well. There's always something to grumble about but I want to remember to be grateful for the good stuff because there's plenty of that around too.
And then there's being thankful for silliness of 'The Gratitude Experiment' from The Huffington Post which is linked to the title of this post...