When the going gets tough, the tough get grateful.
The past two weeks have been some of the most difficult days of my life, following the death of a loved one. But during that time, I’ve been involved in an experiment: an exploration of the power of gratitude.
My plan is to make every Sunday from here on out a gratitude Sunday— an occasion to be thankful for all of the kindness and abundance in my life.
It’s very challenging to feel gratitude when loss has opened a chasm in your life. Nevertheless, these are the times when the healing power of a grateful heart seems most needed.
So I went to the dollar store, and I bought some notes, six for a buck, with a pretty floral pattern. And on Sunday, I just started writing.
A lot of people have helped me in recent days, and I hardly knew where to start. I’ve received cards and letters, gifts of money to help with travel to a funeral and mementos to remind me of happier times. There were more than six kind hearts in my life; in fact, there always are. In ordinary times, we sometimes overlook small acts of grace.
But when tragedy strikes, kindness is like oxygen. I have found myself so moved by each lovingly expressed sentiment. Some people are really no good at finding the right words to say, and often, even though I consider myself a word person, I’m right there with them, struggling to express anything meaningful and often expressing what I want to say all wrong. But no statement of sympathy I received felt clunky or off-putting. It all just felt like love, and that’s exactly what I needed.
In times of national tragedy, such as this weekend’s mass-casualty shooting events, politicians and others like to offer thoughts and prayers. These always strike me as hollow. Why not offer conversation and legislation instead? But in my private life there is no sweeter notion than the idea that someone is thinking of me, someone is praying for me. I’ll take thoughts and prayers every time.
So two Sundays ago, I got out my pen and I thanked my helpers and supporters. This past Sunday, after another trip to the dollar store, I turned my attention to everyday grace. I wrote a note to the people who work at a store I frequent each week, and I thanked them for the way they greet me and make me feel so welcome every time I walk in. I gave thanks for the organization responsible for a park I enjoy visiting in my contemplative time. I even thanked the lifeguards who have to tell my six-year-old, “Walk, buddy,” multiple times each weekend at the pool we frequent.
Time marches on, and I’m already past my period when sympathy is expressed and cards show up in the mail. But the grief hasn’t lessened — not even a little. It’s time now to remind myself of everyday sweetness and care and what they mean in my life, because no one knows what the next day holds.