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STEP OUT WITH SENIORS: Gratitude sets the tone for the day

I wrote on this topic in 2001 and, because of two comments I heard this week, decided to revisit it.

A friend at the senior center said it to me, “What makes you so cheerful today? I haven’t a darn thing to be happy about.” Her negativity took me totally by surprise because she is a lovely woman who has many friends and is always on the go with them.

The second greeting came from a person who struggles with health problems. He said, “Isn’t it a great day today, Mary?” This, despite the struggle of using a walker, having to work hard to take a deep breath and having to move out of his home.

I guess it is the old thing of looking at the glass that is just half full of water – to some the glass is half empty while to others it is half full of hope and promise.

There are times in our lives when we wish things could be different. When we were young we wanted things like a car, a date to a school dance, new clothes, etc. Our parents told us to be grateful for what we did have.

As we got older we wanted things like a job, a farm, to be married or to start a family. We set goals and worked toward them. We felt grateful that we had the resources to accomplish them.

That is what I want to talk about today – gratitude. It is sort of an old-fashioned concept, but with our world running at such a fast pace, it seems that gratitude gets relegated to things like merging safely onto the highway or being able to buy gas for our car.

In its simplest form, gratitude is thankfulness, whether it if for something we have been given, whether an object or an act of kindness. It can be for something we already have or someone in our lives whom we cherish.

Years ago I took a hint from a young woman who wrote a book titled “Simple Abundance.” She had been looking at all that was wrong and depressing in her life and decided to make a change. She chose to look at all she did have and the people in her life and express gratitude, thankfulness, for all she had.

She showed us that there are lots of things we can be grateful for. If our lives are lean and spare, maybe what there is to be thankful for is a roof over our heads, food to eat, a book from the library to read or a baseball game on TV.

Maybe it is for something like a computer that lets you stay in touch with family and friends, medicine to make you well, a doctor who takes time to assure you that you will get well.  Perhaps it is for something like the three days of sunshine we had last week and enjoying the rhododendrons in your neighbors’ yards or having a friend.

The author suggested we all take time every day to write down or think about five things we are grateful for in our lives. Small things or big things – just five a day. Over time you will find the quality and tenor of your sense of gratitude will change and become subtler. So, right this minute, what can you think of?

Seniors, let’s step out and have an appreciation for all that we have.

P.S.  When I wrote on this topic 10 years ago I received a very sad letter from a woman who had children in trouble and was in financial trouble herself. I hope life is better now, that there is some joy.

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