Monday, July 27, 2020

Through the lens of Gratitude

It seems difficult to think about the idea of looking at our world and our lives through a "lens of gratitude," but that challenge is what I want to focus on today. Surrounded by a still growing global pandemic, expanding civil unrest over systemic racial injustice, and mounting global geopolitical pressures and strife, it almost feels misplaced to even suggest that "gratitude" could or possibly SHOULD be the filter/screen or "lens" for our complicated world today.

Recently our son had a terrible accident and had to have emergency surgery.  I won't go into any details here, but he is recovering well and getting stronger everyday.  His accident caused a significant amount of internal bleeding, and his surgeon shared how lucky he was to have gotten to the hospital as quickly as he did (via a 911 ambulance call),  since his internal bleeding was so severe.  I was shocked, and terrified about our son's "close call" and was so deeply appreciative that he had come through surgery so well and was going to have a full recovery.  I was deeply grateful, full stop!

That realization of deep gratitude pushed me to think about gratitude more deeply, and how hard it seems to have as a constant filter for life, and how especially hard it seems to apply today!  With all the pain/loss/tragedy in our world in the summer of 2020, "gratitude" does not seem like the first place to start in approaching our world.  As a counterpoint, I want to suggest in this essay that we might all benefit if we try to apply our "gratitude glasses" to the challenges we all face today across our landscape.

Gratitude: noun; the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

A few quotes from a breadth of voices help amplify the definition above:

Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

Maya Angelou 
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

“Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life 
becomes rich.”

Mother Teresa
"The best way to show gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.

Now that we have refreshed ourselves on the core definition of "gratitude," and have been nudged by a number of voices from across the centuries, lets think about how to apply this seemly simple idea to our lives this summer:

  • "Leading" through a lens of gratitude:
    • Many business leaders find it tempting to start conversations or business reviews with a summary of what has NOT gone well, or a discussion of the gaps or mis-steps of the organization.  Try starting with the greatest successes of the year, the biggest wins, the loudest moments .... THE GRATITUDE LIST ...what are we grateful for as we begin this conversation??  there will be plenty of time to review the negatives.... lets ALWAYS start with the positives (even after a bad quarter/year!)

  • "Parenting" through a lens of gratitude: 
    • Like many families, we have had an experience over the past few months "during Covid" where we have had a lot of time with our college aged kids, much more than normal!  Rather than myopically focus on the clothes on the floor, or the forgotten coffee cups left around the house, I am working on realizing that this moment will actually be over MUCH TO SOON and I will miss having this "regular time" with Marie and Bryson kicking around the house... a time that might never be replicated!  

  • "Marriage" through a lens of gratitude:
    • This coming week, Jennie and I celebrate our 33rd anniversary.  After three + decades of marriage, a kind and wonderful life partner, two smart beautiful healthy kids, a lovely home, and the list goes on ...  there are tons to be appreciative of and grateful for and I am thinking this year about how to centered on those truths!
While I won't "fill in" the following few thought starters, this idea continues on in the same direction.... take the items of our current day-to-day life and work to "look" at them through the "lens of gratitude!"

  • "Volunteering " through a lens of gratitude: 

  • "Friendship" through a lens of gratitude:

  • "Politics" through a lens of gratitude: 

  • We all have a lot to be grateful for, lets not forget it as we lead our busy lives!  Lets turn these attitudes into actions and SHOW our appreciation to those who touch our lives.... through the "lens of gratitude!"