It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and thankfulness is in the air. It’s nice we take time out of the year to remember the many things we have to be thankful for. But what about the rest of the year? Should we only be thankful one day out of 365 or one month out of 12?
Believe it or not, you can develop a yearlong attitude of gratitude. If you’re stuck in a rut, that may not sound very easy, or appealing. But conditioning your mind to see the good in things will benefit not only you, but those around you as well.
Let me give you an example. There was a time in my life when I had a very low self-image. I didn’t think highly of myself, nor did I think others should. And during that time, I was so focused on myself and my many faults that it was hard to see the good around me, in my relationships and in my surroundings.
I remember being discontent in my marriage (yes, each marriage goes through difficult times). I knew I wanted to stay with my husband and fulfill the vows I made for “as long as we both shall live.” And I knew that in order for that to happen, something had to change.
So I set out to find the good in my husband, determined to come up with at least one good thing a day. When I thought of that one thing, I’d write it down. Some days were harder than others for me to see the good. But eventually, I got to the point where I saw lots of good — and lots more good than bad. Today, that good far outweighs the bad. And our relationship is better because of it.
The same thing can happen in any area of our lives. If we’re looking for things to complain about, we’re likely to find them. And if we look for things to be grateful for, that’s what we’ll find.
This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to develop an attitude of gratitude that lasts throughout the year. Look for the good in your circumstances and in the lives of those around you. You might be surprised at what you find.
I’m thankful for you.
I’ve always been a bit of a loner. I think it’s attributable partly to my introverted personality and partly to all the moving around my family did when I was a kid. (No, neither of my parents was in the service; they just liked to relocate.)
Because of that loner mentality, I’m perfectly happy having time to myself to do what I want to do. Having raised five kids, I didn’t get a lot of me time during their developing years. And actually, I had to learn to like myself again because I forgot what spending time on my own was like. But I digress.
My husband went back to school a couple of years ago to get a degree in aviation maintenance technology and switch careers. Since he’s not quite yet ready to retire from his long-term, full-time job, he decided to pursue the airplane thing on the side. He changed his work schedule to four 10-hour days to free up time to devote to this second career.
When he couldn’t find a company to hire him a day or two a week, he decided to volunteer as a mechanic at the Commemorative Air Force. That was more than a year ago. Today, he works four 10-hour days at his full-time job and devotes two long days at the airplane hangar every week.
That meant I had Saturdays to myself. And I used those Saturdays to the fullest, watching TV or a movie in bed, doing chores, catching up on projects, spending time with my kids, and even writing my book proposal — which took much longer than I thought it would.
During this past year, I’ve gone with my husband to a number of events at the hangar and have gradually gotten more familiar with the place and with all it has to offer. I volunteered to help at an air show a number of months ago and really enjoyed that. And my husband never forgot about it.
A few weeks ago, he finally talked me into volunteering regularly at the hangar with him. I was adamant I did not want to give up every single Saturday, and he agreed that wouldn’t be required. And it hasn’t been. But I find myself enjoying the time I spend there and not being a in a rush to leave when I am there.
Plus, it’s afforded me some pretty remarkable opportunities. I’ve heard a Pearl Harbor survivor speak about his experiences. I met one of the forgotten 500 airmen who were stranded in Yugoslavia when their planes went down. I met two of the Tuskegee Airmen. And I got to take a ride on the C-47 and the B-25.
But that’s not the best part. What I’m enjoying most is being able to spend more time with my husband doing something he loves. It’s a huge blessing that he wants to spend time with me and wants me to be a part of his world. I’d be crazy to pass it up.
Volunteerism. It’s what this nation was founded on. Colonists gathered together to harvest crops and erect buildings. They pitched in to fight fires. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin started the first volunteer fire station. And volunteerism has only continued since.
Approximately 62.6 million people volunteered in some capacity between September 2014 and September 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One of the things I like most about volunteering is the pride I see other volunteers take in their duties. They don’t have to give of their time and effort; they choose to contribute. That ho-hum “I’m only doing this because I have to” attitude is absent. There’s no paycheck to look forward to and no reward at the end — other than knowing they’re helping to make the lives of others better. Volunteerism is truly a gift of the heart.
Someone needs you.
Many organizations are in need of volunteers. Churches and nonprofit organizations rely on unpaid workers to do much of the work that needs to be accomplished in order to fulfill their missions.
For years, my husband and I served at our church in various capacities. As our five kids grew older, we focused more of our time and efforts on providing a safe, fun place for them and their friends to hang out, feeding them, and supporting them. And then life experiences led us to even other service efforts.
Today, we volunteer at the Commemorative Air Force, helping to keep alive the memories of those who served in the bomber planes in World War II. My husband has been volunteering as a mechanic there for more than a year. I joined just recently and am enjoying being part of this volunteer effort with him.
We’ve also helped pack boxes of food for Feed My Starving Children. And we’ve raised money for and walked in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer annual walk put on by the American Cancer Society.
These are only a handful of organizations that depend on volunteers. If you’re looking for a place where you can contribute, VolunteerMatch.org is a good starting point. You enter information about yourself, and the site finds organization matches in your geographical area that fit your likes.
You don’t have to give much of your time. But I guarantee you, you’ll be glad you gave what you did. So, where will you volunteer?
My husband and I had the pleasure of dining with an amazing young woman recently. What impressed me about this woman was her upbeat, positive attitude.
You see, this woman had a lot she could complain about. She lost her sight three years ago at the age of 27. She could easily have let that become her crutch and wallow in self-pity and depression. But she didn’t.
No, she chose to rise above her circumstances and make the best of her life. To see her, you wouldn’t know she has a visual impairment. She doesn’t walk with a cane or wear sunglasses. And she even runs marathons — with a guide or guides.
She speaks at conferences on topics such as “Blind Dating Sucks” and encourages blind and sighted people alike. Each year, she organizes and hosts “Dinner in the Dark,” where sighted guests are blindfolded for a three-course meal to experience what it’s like to be blind. She also writes a blog called “Blind Girls Can Rock Heels.”
This woman exudes passion. She is motivated, confident, and ambitious. And her joy and positive attitude are contagious.
We all face things that can get us down. But just like this woman, we don’t have to let them. We can choose to overcome our circumstances and use them to help others.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"