One day a number of weeks ago, the family cat was sitting on our daughter’s coat in her chair at the kitchen table. She was not inconvenienced by this in the least. On the contrary, she was actually grateful that he’d been kind enough to warm up her jacket on that particularly cold winter morning. It was also an opportunity for her to get to sit in Dad’s seat which excited her. The situation turned into a double dose of gratitude in the eyes of my daughter. She benefited twice from something that normally kind of annoys me since I’m usually the one who has to clean all of that cat hair off of her clothes. I realized that day that we can learn so much about gratitude from children.as
Kids see the world in such a simple and pure way. I envy that a lot. I think it’s we as adults who make things so unnecessarily complex. Just look at things that are complicated by the rules set forth by the adults in charge: healthcare, taxes, intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights… The list goes on. So many of us feel the need to overthink things in order to cover a very broad range of possible results. I will admit that I’m often guilty doing this myself. As a result, black and white become gray. Then it all turns into mud in the end. What likely began with positive intentions turns into a huge mess. Gratitude on the other hand is simple, and simplicity is beautiful.
Gratitude and Health
As I’ve mentioned already, the world can be a complicated place at times. It’s not really surprising then that stress and anxiety can creep in to our lives and become a constant – a new normal. A lot of people don’t notice this when it happens. I know I didn’t a couple of years ago, but that’s for another post and time entirely. Studies have been done, though, about the correlation between gratitude and the positive effects it has on your health. And they say that laughter is the best medicine. To that I say, “Ha!”
It isn’t just the holistic medical profession espousing the benefits of gratitude on health either. In fact, even WebMD has talked about it in featured articles like this one. Gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, boost your immune system, and even help you in times of loss. In fact, Buddhism teaches about being grateful for life’s challenges. However, society has become so materialistic and self-absorbed that a lot of people tend to focus on getting ahead and keeping up with the Jones’ instead of simply being grateful for what they already have. I can’t imagine that most, if not all, of those people will ever truly be happy.
Refocused on Gratitude
It can be difficult to put gratitude at the forefront in life at times. It’s something that you really need to focus on and make a conscious effort to do at first. Sometimes, though, there are situations in life both big and small that remind us to be grateful.
I recently decided after being up early one morning that I would get the kids something from McDonald’s for breakfast. Not the healthiest choice, I know, but it was a welcome change from the daily cereal and toaster waffle routine that they’d gotten into since I returned to working full-time. The cinnamon melts are a guilty pleasure for our entire family once in awhile.
As I was sitting in the drive thru, which I still consider one of the greatest creations for convenience ever invented, things were flying through my head as usual. I still had my car window open as I made my way toward the first drive thru window with my debit card in hand. The voices from the cashier and the driver of car ahead of me were a welcome interruption to near constant flood of thoughts in my head at the time. Normally, it’s angry yelling that catches my attention. However, I noticed this time that the voice of the driver in front of me was almost jovial as he spoke with the cashier. “Someone’s seems to be in a really good mood,” I thought to myself. With that, I was right back into thinking about all of the things that I had to do later in the day.
When I reached the first drive through window, I held out my debit card and the cashier’s hand reached for me as normal. It wasn’t quite normal, though, because instead of her taking my card she handed me a receipt. She simply smiled and said, “The gentleman in the car ahead of you paid for your meal.”
Now, those who know me well know that I can sometimes be a bit socially awkward. I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, but a situation like this causes me to… Yes. You guessed it. Overthink the situation. From, “Do I know this person? If I do I feel terrible because I don’t recognize the car and can’t get a good look at them from here,” to “Okay. Really? What just happened? Why would they do that?” The gauntlet in my mind was thrown down, and I was in a fast and furious race to analyze the entire situation from every possible angle that I could think of in a matter of seconds. It felt like an eternity when it happened, though.
Being that my mind works this way sometimes and suddenly throws me for a loop, I completely missed the opportunity to “pay it forward”, or “backward” as I guess the case may have been at the time. As a way of re-centering myself, I simply thought, “What would my daughter do?” The answer: be grateful. So simple and yet so incredibly effective. So I smiled and raised my hand. A small gestured compared to the feeling of gratitude that welled up inside of me at that moment. As I did this and the gentleman’s shiny black sedan began to pull away from the second drive thru window in front of me, his left hand reached out his window into the crisp winter morning air and waved back. If a wave can be jovial, then this one certainly was. Maybe he simply wanted to be generous and make someone’s day.
Going forward, I will not hesitate to pay it forward. (See what I did there?) No more questioning the motive of a person’s generosity. Especially that of a complete stranger. Are some people nice to others only to make themselves feel good? Possibly, but does it really matter? It ultimately makes the world a better place, so just be grateful and try to do the same.
Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have to get to bed. I need to get up early and pay for a random person’s coffee at Starbucks tomorrow morning.