Thankful vs Grateful
After the power outages and snow storms in Texas this past week, I’m never taking electricity or the internet (even when slow) for granted again!
Through dark days, with not many things to do to pass the time, I realized two things:
1). how dependent we are on technology and, 2). The importance of gratitude.
But first, what is the difference between being thankful and grateful? Well, when we think of thankfulness we think of sitting around the table on Thanksgiving and saying one thing we’re pleased about or happy to have. Thankfulness is consciousness of things received. But, gratitude is more than a “thank you”. It combines thankfulness with an intentional and perpetual appreciation.
Every day I come home, I turn on the lights and expect them to come on. I go to the shower and expect water to come out. Now it’s easy for me to say I’m thankful or conscious of my ability to have running water; However, the next step should be deep appreciation (or gratitude) for the ability to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about water. This involves an intentional focus on the impact of having accessibility to potable water versus the contrary situation.
The first step to becoming more grateful is to appreciate the things you have and what your life would be like without them, instead of comparing yourself to others. When your eyes are elsewhere, you can’t be actively valuing the things in front of you. Now, it’s great to set high goals for yourself, but constantly wishing you had more, can lead to an unfulfilled and bitter life. Gratitude involves being in a constant state of contentment with the things you currently have.
As I saw stories of families struggling not to freeze, some without water, and others with burst pipes, I began to appreciate my bed and even my dark room more than I had done in the past. Although I had no power, I had a relatively warm home. I thought of the homeless in Texas, and my heart dropped. This brings me to my next point: serving others.
In my experience, I’ve found that volunteering not only makes me happy, but also brings me to a place of gratitude. I volunteered with a homeless shelter for teens this fall, and helped put together hygiene and food packages for them. Realizing that they were the same age as me, and could possibly be students at my school made me more aware (thankful) for the little things like toothpaste that I didn’t treasure or took for granted. And now, every morning when I brush my teeth, I’m overcome by sentiments of appreciation for my toothbrush, toothpaste, and water (gratitude). See the difference? Gratitude is a state of being, not a mere recognition.
TAKE THE TIME TO HELP OTHERS
Taking the time to seek out and help other people can be a real eye opener of things you should be grateful for. Seeing how much people in need value the small necessities, should inspire you to emulate them—the way their eyes light up when they are offered food or even toothpaste: that’s appreciation; that's gratitude.
Another thing that can help you cultivate gratitude is being positive. I know I definitely struggle with this one sometimes. It’s impossible to be grateful if we’re pessimistic about our situation, or constantly finding things to complain about. I’m not saying don’t be mad that your car broke down on the way to work, but also realize that having a car is a privilege that many don’t have. It might be helpful for you to imagine your life without your car. That is sure to bring you to a place of gratitude.
Gratitude brings joy and contentment into our lives. It turns what we have into plenty. In my case I guess all it took this past week was sitting in the dark to savor my slow internet and light bulbs. This week, start with thankfulness, then shift to gratefulness!
Until next time,