Yesterday evening I was driving back to Sydney after working at a medical clinic in Newcastle. I was looking forward to listening to the CDs I had specifically selected for the two and a half hour journey home but before I could press play, the first CD jammed and I couldn’t get it to work. Nor could I remove it. No rhyme, no reason, no sound. I was not happy. My mind slipped into a woeful litany of everything else that had gone wrong in the last week along with the unending chores that loomed ahead. I was getting less and less happy with each passing kilometre.
Suddenly I noticed the lush green valley on either side of the road and it interrupted my ridiculous moaning. Out of the blue I decided to play a game with myself. I would go through each letter of the alphabet and find a word that represented a reason to be grateful. For instance:
I felt incredibly grateful that I lived in Australia. (My parents migrated here when I was four years old.)
I was grateful that I had a healthy body.
I was enormously grateful that I lived in a society that afforded me choices about how I wanted to live.
I was very grateful that I had a Dad who loved me.
All the way to Z: I’m grateful I have the zeal to go back to A and find another 26 reasons to be humbly grateful! And so it went for two more rounds of the alphabet. I was reminded of the French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal when he wrote ‘Little things comfort us because little things distress us.’
By the time I arrived home I had gone from grumpy to giving. Nothing had changed in my life except the dialogue in my head.
Even though feeling grateful seems like a self-focused activity, it actually inspires us to give to others. When we realise how much we have, it fuels us to reach out and help other people.