Power of Gratitude

Epictetus (55 AD-135 AD) said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  I believe the optimum state of mind to accomplish any achievement is gratitude.  It doesn’t matter what your status is, what you have or don’t have, there is always something to be grateful for.  George Burns, in his mid-90s, said, “At my age, I’m grateful to be still breathing.”  For a salesperson, what’s significant about gratitude is that it’s impossible to feel discouraged or sorry for yourself if you’re feeling grateful.

Do you have a spouse you love and who loves you?  There are widows and widowers out there who ache for their lost love; I know a few, they’re friends of mine.  Do you have children?  Are they healthy?  Think of the millions of depressed women whose wombs are barren; or the grief-stricken parents of a critically ill child, who desperately go from the ICU to light a candle at church.  Are you healthy?  My grandmother, born in 1888 on a farm outside of Minsk, used to say, “If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”  Smart woman, my grandmother.  Do you have adequate shelter?  The homeless do not.  Do you have enough to eat?  The hungry do not.  Were you educated?  The illiterate were not.

The things to be grateful for are endless, are they not?

Isn’t it simply a miracle that you and I are alive on this earth, with limitless opportunities to live life to its fullest?  Just to have known love was worth the price of admission.  It makes me want to get down on my knees and give thanks to the Powers That Be for every day I’ve been blessed with, for all the wonderful people I’ve been blessed with.  When I’m told to have a nice day, my standard response is “I woke up this morning; it’s already a nice day.”  How about you?  Do you appreciate all your blessings or just take them for granted?

Have you ever heard about the man who complained about not having shoes…, until he saw someone in a wheelchair without feet?

Here’s an exercise for you: create a gratitude list; write down everything you’re grateful for.  You may stop at a hundred, but go to a thousand if you like.  At the top of my own gratitude list are the health of my wife, three children, and three grandchildren.  I once made a promise to never take their health for granted.  I made that promise on a Saturday morning in February, 1997, in the CAT-scan waiting room at Lutheran General Hospital.

On a Sunday evening six days earlier, I had deplaned in Atlanta, gone to the bathroom and was shocked out of my wits to see blood in my urine.  It happened six more times before I headed home Thursday.  I have no excuse why I didn’t listen to my wife and immediately go home; not one of my more prudent decisions.

Nicki had set up an appointment with the urologist for Friday, but I went directly from O’Hare Field after my plane landed.  The doctor examined me, said there were a number of possibilities, and then sent me to the hospital for an IVP x-ray.  When I was done with the x-ray and about to leave, the technician told me the urologist was on the telephone.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” he said, “but I’m afraid I’ve got bad news—it’s kidney cancer, not much doubt about it.”  He suggested I return to his office so a surgery date could be set forthwith.

Kidney cancer—it sounded so ominous; I contemplated my mortality.

“Do not ask for whom the bell tolls,” Hemingway wrote, “the bell tolls for thee.”

There was little doubt about the diagnosis, but the urologist wanted a CAT scan to be 100% sure.  So that’s how I wound up in the CAT-scan waiting room early Saturday morning.  Nicki and I were alone except for a young couple and their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter—a real cutie.  They sat directly across from us.

Nicki nervously explained why we were there; the little girl’s mother explained why they were there: their daughter had developed a rare cancer when she was six months old, and periodic CAT scans had become part of their routine.

Six months oldA baby, for God’s sake!  I fought back the tears—for both of us, but especially that beautiful child and her beleaguered parents.  I ached for them.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the mother and father to cope with such an Ordeal—hell, still were coping with it.  How did they manage it?  A baby whom you couldn’t communicate with, explain things to; how could they watch her suffer so without going stark-raving mad?  I couldn’t do it, I thought.  I couldn’t possibly deal with something so devastating.  Surely I’d collapse and die.

I felt a surge of gratitude that I had the kidney cancer, not one of my kids.  I took that CAT scan feeling like Lou Gehrig—“…the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

There is always something to be grateful for.

It’s impossible to feel discouraged or sorry for yourself if you’re feeling grateful.

There’s magic all around you; take notice of it, never take it for granted.

Smell the roses!

Emerson said it so well:

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.

Be grateful and inevitably you’ll have a lot more to be grateful for.

The salesperson who has a heart full of gratitude sells a lot more than the one who doesn’t.