Our director in the Philippines, Lani, came to live in India for 4 weeks to continue to assist the women in Barathapuram in their jewelry-making skills. I was with her for two of the weeks. As is typical in India, the weather is hot and humid. We work in a facility with no electricity, and are constantly sweating. Yet Lani did not complain. Over the years I frequently noticed her ability to always be grateful, regardless of circumstances or outcomes. Being that we were working in a leprosy colony, we would eat breakfast at the hostel and then take food for the afternoon, returning for an evening meal back at the hostel. Each morning she would prepare for herself some food (rice, eggs, sandwich, whatever was available) and was always conscious that I would NOT prepare anything for myself, so she would make me something as well without a second thought. As the lunch hour approached and I could hear my stomach gurgling I would sadly remember that I had not brought anything, and she would bring the items out. I was always so thankful for her foresight. And on days when we both had forgotten, the women in the co-op would quickly go grab a coconut, watermelon, something to share with us. Generosity ran thick in our little group.
After a particularly sweaty hot difficult week, we all gathered at the hostel on a Saturday evening and learned we would be eating a meal on the roof with many of the volunteers and advisors to RSO.
At this long table that seated 20-30 people, each person would take a moment and stand and share their highs/lows/thoughts of what their day had encompassed. Typically people would share an experience that had happened while they were out in the colony, which would impress on each of us how much help was needed here in India. Many times they would share a big list of ‘lows’ (the heat, too many mosquitos, too many bugs in general, the food, always spicy, the heat again, the lack of AC, communication struggles and etc). Or they would share a moment that had touched them, shifted their perspective in a dramatic way. Many times tears were shed as we all realized the needs that existed here, and how we could be an impact on those needs.
As Lani’s turn approached, I thought she might share stories of working with the women in the co-op that day. Or share the difficulty with the language. Or even the frustration of trying to work with women who did not have a concept of what we were trying to teach.
But no. She did not share any ‘lows’, only an enormous “high’. Her sharing was simply one of gratitude. Gratefulness to be in India, gratitude to those at RSO that were allowing us to stay there at the hostel, gratitude to them for wanting this micro-enterprise opportunity for the women in the leprosy colony. Gratitude for the food. Gratitude for the support of her family while she was away for 4 weeks. Gratitude for me for teaching her to ride a bike. Gratitude to the Pearls With Purpose foundation for working with her and all those in need in her country. It was a bucketful of gratitude.
And I was reminded once again of the depth and beauty and graciousness of her soul. Her gratitude is embedded in her DNA. Gratefulness courses through her veins.
I was SO surprised she expressed gratitude for her “bike-lesson” and I asked her about that after dinner. I said to her, “How can you be grateful for learning to ride a bike at the age of 40 after all the spills and injuries you sustained?” (in my mind, her learning to ride the bike had been a disaster everytime she fell or wobbled my own heart fell!)
She replied, “Oh Wendy, do you know how much better this is that now I can ride the bike? So many times I have no transportation, no car, no money for tricey or jeepney, and I would walk. Many times I would wish to myself, ‘if only I knew to ride a bike, I could get there faster and it would be less money’, and now I learn. Now you have teached me and now I can ride the bike, of course I am SO grateful!”.
Gratitude. The thickness of the word when lived throughout your life is difficult to comprehend. I feel I am a grateful person- until I find myself in the presence of someone who eats sleeps and loves their life with an attitude of gratitude.
Someone like Lani. Someone like my mom. Even Oprah Winfrey has tracked her gratitude DAILY for over thirty years.
I began a gratitude journal on my phone. For me- I find myself reflecting on the things I’m grateful for whenever I am driving somewhere—-and trust me—-I’m nearly always driving somewhere. So rather than listen to the radio- I turn diction on and start recording my thoughts and feelings of those things I am so very grateful for. I try to capture them in the moment- so if I find myself feeling extremely grateful for an action or a sunrise or an opportunity I will promptly stop what I’m doing and take a moment to express the fresh raw gratitude right then and there via typing or recording.
I tried the handwriting in a journal/booklet- but found I was typically in a location WITHOUT the booklet. And then the moment would pass and my busy ness of the day would ensue and by nightfall I would be unable to recollect it as accurately as I wanted.
But my phone? That’s on my person 24/7 it seems. So it was a perfect solution for me.
I have noticed some remarkable things in my own life since implementing an attitude of gratitude:
- I criticize less
- I am more calm
- I feel more peaceful
- The glass is more “half full”
- I smile more
- I enjoy life more consistently
- I have more compassion towards others
- I’m more inclined to help/assist others
- I focus on more positive outlooks
- I have greater abundance
As I identified these 10 traits and their development as I became more grateful, my life changed. For the better.
Obviously being aware of things to be grateful for and being mindful of gratitude for ALL things WILL draw us closer to who we are striving to become.
What do you do to capture your gratitude?
How often do you reflect on those things you are grateful for?
Is your glass half full? Or half empty?
Is gratitude only for the holidays?