Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which in some respects is hard to believe given how long Thanksgiving decor has garnished many stores. I never liked skipping ahead with holidays nor celebrating them too soon.
I never saw that on my mission in Guatemala. Many people there spend their days collecting what they need to survive that day, whether that’s harvesting corn and beans for food, grinding the corn and making tortillas, or collecting firewood for cooking.
I’m still touched by memories of impoverished people sharing with me what little they had. They don’t need to share with me. I can go home and enter any number of local grocery stores where I can have whatever I want. Yet they still shared with me.
Usually I didn’t really want what they shared. I endured much sickness on my mission, often feeling like something was alive inside of me trying to eat its way out. How was I to know what might make me sick?
Still, I was grateful to be around good-hearted people sharing from their scarcity. And they felt grateful to be able to provide. We chose to be grateful.
One who choose not
Not everyone made that choice, though. I remember meeting a bitter man who always complained that my country didn’t share enough of its wealth. Gratitude was nowhere to be found near this man. He was a pathetic clod of misery.
I never said that to him because of his anger management issues. Unfortunately my companion didn’t share my perspective. One day, when he taunted us as we walked past the tienda where he sat drunk, my companion mouthed back to him. In response, he pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot us.
My companion quickly bolted. I was set to follow, but something stopped me. A power I couldn’t see physically held me back, and I felt strongly impressed to walk, not run, away.
I complied. The man followed me, waving his pistol and commanding me in drunken slurs to return to my home country. At length, I turned my head and shouted, “Look at me. I am walking away. I’m going home.” He then stopped, turned around, and walked back towards the tienda. I never saw him again. And I’m very grateful for that!
The right focus
This man never seemed grateful for anything. He chose a constant focus on what he lacked and how unfair and unequal his situation was compared to others. Because your focus becomes your reality, he had a reality of lack, unfairness, and inequity. And that made him miserable.
In contrast, many of his countrymen chose to be generous rather than spiteful. They focused on sharing what they had rather than searching for ways to accumulate more for themselves. That focus led to a reality of abundance that inspired gratitude. And that made them happy.
Just as you can choose what you focus on, you can choose to be grateful for what you have. Focusing on what you lack leads to a reality of lack, and that reality makes it harder to choose gratitude. Focusing on what you have leads to a reality of abundance, and that reality makes it easier to choose gratitude.
You can be grateful and happy, or you can be ungrateful and unhappy. It all depends on the focus you choose. Make sure you choose wisely.
The right choice
It’s sometimes not enough to focus on what you have. You also need to avoid comparing yourself with others. Including any element of comparison in your focus invites a reality of competition making it harder to be grateful, especially when you don’t win.
Typically, we don’t win the comparisons we make with others. Those exercises often provide evidence for not believing in ourselves and our own potential. What’s to make us think we can accomplish anything great if we aren’t as good as somebody else? That line of questioning leads to a focus of lack, which in turn leads to a reality of lack, which in turn makes it harder to be grateful.
It all depends on what you choose. You can choose to be grateful when you choose to focus on the positive elements of your life. That will create a reality of positivity that will encourage gratitude. Choosing to be grateful then reinforces that focus on the positive, and the cycle repeats itself, leaving you in a much happier state. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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