Life is hard. Schedules are full. Victories are few. Frustrations are frequent. Gratitude is the most effective tool for combating depression, feelings of inadequacy, anger, disappointment and fear.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went upstate to visit our friend Maria and her family. Maria worked with my wife many years ago. We see these people once or twice a year. Whenever we visit, it feels as if we are there to celebrate some holiday not found on any traditional calendar. Each time we head back home, we feel changed in profound ways. I finally identified the key to this transformation: gratitude.
This took no divining on my part: our host, Maria, the ever-cheerful, thoughtful and chatty mother of three delightful daughters, went out of her way to talk about gratitude with us. “Every morning, when I wake up, the first thing I do is think of something I’m grateful for,” she told us as her husband steered their power boat around the waters that open up just minutes from the Huguenot Yacht Club in New Rochelle. “Whether it’s the fact that I’m healthy or that I have a bed to sleep in, there is always something to be grateful for. I always try to remind myself to be grateful for everything in my life.”
Maria makes being grateful seem like a great idea. She wears gratitude well. She always has a smile on her face and a kind thing ready to say. She listens to you and gives equal time. She lauds others’ accomplishments and is enthusiastic about her own. She feeds her flock, young and old. Her daughters have moved on to college and their own bright futures but are always in touch — Maria passed her phone around when one daughter called so we could all say hello. As her daughter’s voice magically poured into my ear all the way from Boston, I could hear her mother’s voice flow through her own, her own happiness and grounded-ness apparent in her cheer. It felt like she was sitting right next to us.
Both Maria and her husband Frank have family roots in other countries, both speak other languages, both worked hard all their lives, nothing was ever guaranteed to either of them. Maria’s parents live with her and her husband, so the house is alive with two languages — English and Spanish — and loads of food. These are not snobs who lord their good fortune over others; these are…