As we prepare to break for that most American of holidays, I am inventorying so many things in life for which I am grateful. Not just thankful…grateful. What’s the difference?
Being thankful has a transactional connotation. Learned skills. Good choices. Hard work. These puritan values helped build this country, but they are not altruistic. They come with an expectation of benefits and advantages in a world where nothing is certain: if I do this – I get that in return – and I acknowledge my thanks. Being thankful is the human response to assistance provided and objectives achieved…and at its most gratuitous, expressing thanks is simply smart and polite. So I am grateful. Grateful for my circumstances…things from which I do not receive satisfaction simply because I put in some requisite effort…for things I cannot earn or finagle.
I’m grateful for my life, my health and my family. I am grateful for my career, and to be working in such an exciting time in education. I am grateful for my friends, those from boyhood with whom I am still in touch all the way up to new friendships recently made. I am grateful for my home and neighbors, knowing that so many will be hungry and homeless as the winter sets in. I am grateful to have been born into a society where I have more rights and freedoms than I would have had anywhere else. I am grateful for every opportunity to contribute and make a difference. I am grateful for every student whose life I’ve touched, and for every one of them who’ve reconnected with me over the years to thank me and continue the relationship. And I am grateful to have a future, however long it is and whatever it entails. There is no greater gift than each new day’s opportunity to live and learn and grow and leave the world a better place by leaving the world a better me. For all these things, I am unconditionally and unabashedly grateful.
Does a grateful mindset preclude me from aspiring to greater things? Certainly not. But it prevents my attitude from souring when life comes up short. I can adjust and move on. No bitterness. No jadedness. No self-righteous indignation. I am grateful for my life, as is. Disappointments dissolve in a sea of gratitude.
Being grateful is transformational, because I am open to all the possibilities in life. No give-and-get expectations. No sense of entitlement. No guarantees. Gratefulness is, simply put, graciously embracing all that life offers.
Gratefulness is self-fulfilling. At first it’s a choice, but it becomes a way of living, and eventually anything less is unacceptable. Why spend energy fighting the inevitable? Life will continue to deal, and I will continue to be grateful.
Join me this week in celebrating a Happy Gratesgiving, here in America and around the world!