The Art of Gratitude

By Kevin Smalley, NFBC Development Director

Kevin Smalley, NFBC Development Director
Kevin Smalley, NFBC Development Director

Editor's Note: "The Art of..." has been a column included in each Journal issue. The editor generally writes this article. From time to time we have received contributions from others, as is the case for this issue.

Gratitude is a popular buzzword in the world today. New-age gurus sell books promising happiness and enlightenment through gratitude. Talk show hosts preach to us that we should reflect on our life each day and maintain daily journals chronicling all that we are grateful for. Department stores and catalogues are filled with garden stones, desktop items, screensaver programs, mugs and bumper stickers and a multitude of other items reminding us to stop and be grateful for our abundant blessings. Gratitude, it seems, is a best seller. If we are all seemingly overflowing with gratitude, then shouldn't the world be a happier place?

Perhaps the reason that the joys of gratitude and thankfulness often appear in short supply in modern society is that we do indeed forget to take stock and recognize just how grateful we are toward others and even toward ourselves. We are hurried through the challenges of life at breakneck speed. Once we complete the obstacle course of our daily routines, we turn our focus toward the rigors of the next day. Our accomplishments of the day are forgotten. Acts of kindness go unrewarded. The enjoyments of the day we rushed through fade into forgotten memories. It's not just our bodies that fall asleep in our beds at night, but our memories of the benevolent world around us drift into slumber as well. It's our job to wake up those memories.

To truly be grateful takes some reflection. The moments when we feel less than blessed is the time we need to do this. As we are feeling unfairly burdened, unloved or unappreciated, we need to become more aware of the truths in life. We need to take inventory of our blessings. When we do this, we open ourselves to the infinite number of things for which we are grateful. We might remember the people we knew who shared their knowledge with us. We might remember those around us who complimented us when we were not feeling deserving of praise. We may remember the family, friends, co-workers and neighbors who acted as role models and guided us through life.

We may even take stock of the gifts from people whom we have not known. Perhaps you may discover that you are grateful toward the artist whose work inspires you. Maybe you are thankful toward the musician whose songs lift your spirits and whose words and melodies can never be erased from your memory. People have passed through life before us, enduring hardships so that our lives might be more peaceful ones; the people who founded our companies, our cities and even our country. Countless acts of kindness have taken us to where we are today.

How often have you taken stock of the heartbreak, pain, suffering and difficulties others have endured so that our existence might be easier? When we open our eyes to the abundant blessings we receive each day, we see that our lives are rich and fertile with unrecognized joys and possibilities.

Gratitude can also be found in not only the events, people and things in our life, but in those that didn't appear. How many fears from your past never developed into reality? How many illnesses never entered your body? How many times did people NOT fail you? We often fail to embrace the joy that comes from having avoided a particular situation or fear. How many silent prayers were answered?

Gratitude, once realized, is a gift that we should never keep in its wrapping. It needs to be opened and shared. We should ask ourselves if we have expressed the joy and gratitude toward others in our lives who are deserving of praise. The new year is a perfect opportunity to ask yourself whom in this organization you are grateful for. Is there an individual who introduced you to the NFB? Is there somebody, either known personally by you or not, whose leadership or examples have given you inspiration or hope? Gratitude is contagious. It's an infectious, healing act. When we share our gratitude with others, it doubles within ourselves. And when we focus on recognizing and celebrating the positive in our life, we make it habitual. Make it your habit and share its positive effects with others.

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