More than a decade ago, a dear friend introduced me to the concept of a gratitude journal. Initially, I did not see the need. Time passed before I became converted to the idea.The ensuing years saw sporadic entries. However, this year has fared better than any other. A perfect record exists. Some days it’s easier than others to express gratitude. Why a gratitude journal? Who has the time? Our days are consumed with one hustle after another. Errands are not going to run themselves. Assignment fairies do not write papers. Lecture notes do not magically compile themselves.The kids are not going to drive themselves to school. On and on and on. A million and one little excuses. I will admit a gratitude journal is not for everyone. Some might find it silly. Inconsequential. A waste of time. For me, it’s a way of recognizing immeasurable blessings. The days can be arduous. It could be the day I got an unsatisfactory grade on an assignment. A long-awaited phone call never came. I had a fight with a dear friend. A family member fell ill. The car broke down. A relationship fell apart before it got off the ground. Affection was not returned. It is difficult to express gratitude on days like this. Especially when you are alone with your thoughts.
Let me share a few reasons why I keep a gratitude journal. Life is a gift. It is wonderful. Amazing. Rewarding. It is ours for the taking. Consider these alternatives. At this very minute, an alarming number of people just took their last breath. Others were hospitalized. Many received news of a terminal illness. Families said goodbye to their loved ones being deployed for military service. It’s commonplace to be greeted with news of unimaginable tragedies. Natural disasters. Wars. Human rights abuses. Genocides. Mass rape. Honor Killings. Child miners working for long hours under inhumane conditions. Baby elephants and even pregnant mothers are being hunted and killed so one nation can feed its hunger for ivory. Stories abound of beatings, rape, and killing are connected to one of the world’s biggest diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Human trafficking. Child marriages and pregnancies. The atrocities are unthinkable. We shrug our shoulders and turn away, because it’s not in “our backyard”. The majority of us reading this will never suffer these or any other unconscionable acts of brutality. We are some of the luckiest people in the world. This post is not meant to invoke guilt nor highlight the injustices of the world. We know they exist. It is a way to help us realize that we have more than we need and we ought to be grateful.
With so much going on, it’s hard to remain optimistic about the state of the world. However, I am grateful that I am alive. I have food to eat. Clothes to wear. A roof over my head. Friends that love and care for me. A family I can call my own. My parents are still alive. I have the opportunity to get an education. I can marry whoever I please. My health is fairly stable. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. Feet to walk. A mind that works. My family is doing well. I live in a free country. I will never have to worry about my children working instead of going to school. The blessings are infinite. When I look at the injustices of the world, I realize that I am blessed to be born in a country that allows me countless liberties. It could have been a lot different. I could have been born somewhere else. Under different circumstances.
Are there days when I want to give up and throw in the towel? Days when I doubt myself? My abilities? My strengths? My problems seem insurmountable? Of course! This is the time I like to read my gratitude journal. It gives a new perspective. Clarity. Hope. We have a lot to be grateful for. Whether we believe in God. Buddha. A higher power. A statue. Maybe we have no beliefs. It has no bearing on being able to recognize when you are blessed and being grateful for it. There is no need to keep a journal like some do. Recognition will do. So next time, you are asked to give more than you have. Someone let you down. Your world is crashing down around you. All hope is lost. Remember, it could be a hundred times worse. There are people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. They would give anything to live the life you are living. What are you grateful for today?
“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get”. ~Frank A. Clark