As the summer comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the word gratitude; what it is and how we achieve or experience it. The dictionary describes the word gratitude as a feeling of thanks and appreciation. It comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you as well as the results.
I wondered what is required to be truly grateful for the experiences in our life, especially the difficult ones? Being blind would not be something that comes to mind when one thinks of things to be grateful for. Think about that for one second and hear yourself say, “I feel grateful for being blind.” Sounds crazy right?
Through the years, I must admit I often wondered why I had to be the one who went blind as a child! I had to overcome so many challenges and at times I felt angry at myself, and unloved by God. So many things seemed stacked against me.
I attempted to achieve a career, I had to learn adaptive technology, how to raise a family and even participate in activities that I enjoyed or found meaningful. Many times, I felt like I was slipping into the abyss. But then I had a paradigm shift. I was tired of being negative with myself and thinking the worst about my situation. I started to shift the way I thought about my situation. I found myself being grateful for the small things in my life like my family and friends. I felt grateful for a spiritual foundation which gave me strength, and for the advancement of technology which has been life-changing for people with disabilities like myself.
I realized that people with 20/20 vision might actually be more handicapped than I was, due to lack of motivation or belief. This was a help to me, because I could usually find a way to accomplish something by using my other senses: touch, hearing and smell. If someone told me that I could not do something I had a “ok watch this” attitude and I found a way!
In more recent years I have realized that there are things about blindness to be grateful for. For example, when I walk with someone and hold their arm for guidance, it brings me closer to them. I have engaged in many personal and meaningful conversations while walking arm in arm with someone! I am still in touch with a woman who guided me from the gate to baggage claim at the Atlanta airport and that interaction has connected us as friends. I have come closer to God and to my spiritual community, my children and my grandchildren.
As I deal with the daily challenges of life, I want to remember to be grateful for this blindness because it has brought depth and beautiful people into my life that may not have been there otherwise. If I could encourage others to rise above struggles, as I have, I would even be grateful for that opportunity. There are many things in life that are overwhelmingly difficult …health concerns, abusive or neglectful relationships, the loss of a loved one, or the end of a marriage. Gratitude changes us and lifts a burden that is otherwise too heavy to bear.
A lovely quote from philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Don’t dwell on what you don’t have but rather concentrate on what’s good in your life and how you can share that good with others.
What can we be grateful for today?