“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart
I have discovered a very annoying habit about myself. When I get nervous, I repeatedly say thank you. Not once, not twice, but usually around fifteen times. When I was in labor, I had the nurses in giggles because each time they would ask me something, I would say thank you… even in the deepest pain and anguish of labor.When I got in a car accident, I said thank you to the lady who hit me. Not because I was thankful, but because my nerves get the best of me. I was once told this is a self-esteem issue and that I have a desire to be liked. That is probably true and I suppose I could act in far worse ways than expressing repeated thankfulness.
In reality though, living in thankfulness in a world of immediate gratification, speed of light technology, and the busy hum of our lives can be a practice that is often overlooked. Each day as my kids get older, I find myself looking at the clock in the morning and glancing at in the evening, never realizing that so much time has passed or that I have not acted thankfully once the whole day.
Everyone has a different way of showing their thankfulness for what they possess and own. I know many who keep a gratitude journal where they take a moment to jot down a few things in life that make them happy. I attempted this, but found myself repeating myself over and over again. It is hard to say thank you without saying thank you for your spouse, your children, your home, your God, and for what you already have. I’d shut my little gratitude journal and say, “Well, that’s four.” No, the writing process quickly bored me, but I still wanted to find an outlet that would remind me of all of the little things in life that make my world go round.
I needed a more creative outlet for my gratitude and a daily reminder of what I posses. Sometimes it is the big things- a new job that pays the bills, a new furnace when our furnace was going out, a financial goal that is met for our family. Other things are smaller, but are still absolutely special- movie nights with my family, freshly folded laundry, or just a great cup of coffee.
I decided to start a Things That Make Me Happy virtual photo album and began to add those super special moments and the perfectly ordinary that I find extraordinary in life. Behind the lens of my camera, I try to capture to me what makes me thankful each and every day. Almost every single day, I try to find one thing that makes me happy and to take a picture of it.
I then loaded all of these beautiful things that make me happy into a digital frame that we had. It had been gathering dust in our office, not loaded with pictures since my daughter was a tiny baby. I put all of these pictures into the digital frame and put them in my front room where I do all of my best thinking.
As I see the images flashing before my eyes, I silently give thanks over and over again.
If people find it strange that I have random photographs of waffles and library bags mixed throughout our family pictures, no one has ever been brave enough to inquire aloud. I am sure they chalk it up to the weird artsy mother who hangs pictures of shoes on walls and mistreats her home.
As Jacqueline Winspear has said though, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” I want to live thankfully, to be aware of every blessings (great AND small), and the more aware I become the more thankful I am. The more thankful I am, the more blessed I feel. It is a richness that money can’t buy.
Try a little thankfulness today:
Find a New Way to Say Thank You– If you have a digital frame gathering dust, start loading it with pictures that make you happy to remind you of what you have to be thankful for. Other ideas could be updating your screen saver on your computer with images of thankfulness, starting a free Flickr album, keeping a small family journal on an online site like Cozi, or printing out a photo album at a place like Shutterfly so you can glance through it with your morning coffee.
Give a Little of Yourself to Say Thanks– The best way to show that you are thankful to those around you is to let them know that you care. It could be bringing them a meal when someone is ill or needs caring for, it could be just sending them a card to thank them for something they have done, it could be as simple as sitting down and spending time with them. Put one person on your thankful list each week and do something that will make them feel special. Rinse. Repeat.
Compliment Someone Today– Want to make someone feel immediately special and at home in your presence? Give them a compliment. This past week, I got an hour to volunteer in my son’s class. Each child that came through, I tried to make them feel like the most special person in the world. I told them how smart they were, how amazing their ideas were, and would compliment them on something they were wearing or doing. The faces…beaming. The warm fuzzy I got from the experience… priceless. You may think that was just a child’s response, but if someone compliments me, I beam like it is the Fourth of July. You never outgrow the beauty of a compliment and telling someone they are special and that you are thankful for them is something that will last long after you have said it.
Thank Your Children– When was the last time you thanked your child? Praise is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids and I want to give it to them freely. I don’t always succeed, sometimes I really hate my nagging self or how easily I can lose focus on offering praise. The best way to raise a grateful child is to be grateful. I want to do this so much better and I want my kids to remember that I thanked and praised them often.
What are some ways you are practicing thankfulness? What is one thing you have done to show your thankfulness that you are really proud of?