Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Looking for Joy in All the Right Places

Deliberate, daily thanksgiving has been a valuable life discipline for me. I have found over and over again that when I list the people, things and happenings for which I am grateful, I am choosing life, choosing happiness, choosing joy.

After many years, I still marvel how practicing thanksgiving helps me replace misery with contentment and move from despair to hope. During a couple seasons of my life I posted my thanksgiving lists on the walls of my home, but most of the time my lists are in my notebook or on my lips.

Looking for things in difficult people and circumstances and surroundings for which to give thanks opens my eyes to see goodness, beauty, and joy I would have otherwise missed. Deliberate gratitude grounds me in the reality of NOW and helps me to be present to those people I can too easily take for granted and shut out.

I have, perhaps, been a bit over-zealous at times in trying to pass along the inheritance of thanksgiving to our sons. I remember one canoe ride when a bad lightning storm rolled in with tons of rain less than an hour into our trip. Nothing to do but ride it out, either huddled in sopping piles in the forest or daring the lightning to strike us in the middle of the river. Both boys were pretty young, but Kyle was old enough to realize the harm that could come our way and he was SCARED. David and I made him say thank you for the rain and the lightning over and over again to try to help him combat his fear.

On another occasion we made him express gratitude for several months for the beat-up bike he owned before we would get him another.

Sam's first year of middle school was difficult for him - this kid who had been happy through all of elementary school, dreaded going out the door to school each day. He chose to fight back by keeping his internal eyes open throughout the day, looking for at least one thing to declare "Good" and feel joy about - a cool looking cloud formation, a good lunch time trade , a goal scored in PE.

For a while, "Look for the joy" were my goodbye words to him each morning, and "What joy did you find today?" was the evening question. I think it helped him get through a tough year, and perhaps helped form the foundation of an emotional resilience that has stood him in good stead through some really tough events and seasons.

Well, guys, I hope, that looking back, you would feel you have more benefit than scars from the many thanksgiving lists we made you compile and recite.

Giving Thanks - its good stuff. Happy New Year


Carrie said...

Sandy, here's the YouTube link - I couldn't find your email. Enjoy! :)

Carrie said...

Oops. I forgot the link. :)


Carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

First I laugh, now I cry tears of joy and thanksgiving. You did a wonderful job. This blog tells of the many reason I love Sam and your family.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aunt Sandra -

I really enjoyed your post. I am often discracted by the happenings in my life and forget to be thankful for the things that made me smile. Something that touched my heart a couple weeks ago was a special on Randy Pausch who is fighing pancreatic cancer. When asked how his wife gets through each day, she responded by saying that when bad thoughts enter her mind, such as how unfair it is that she lose her husband so early in life, she reminds herself that it isn't helpful to the situation. For some reason I found that to be profound. Now when I find myself struggling over something that is unavoidable I remind myself of her words and remember the things that I am thankful for. I know your a busy busy woman, but you should check out Randy Pausch's book "The Last Lecture." Truly an inspirational read.