thankfulnessI don’t pay much attention to my Facebook news feed, but this morning I woke up to something that caught my attention. My friend Jacob in Minneapolis had posted a message of gratitude. Gratitude that he was alive, and that he has such a supportive community of friends and family.

This sort of message might not be an attention grabber if it weren’t for its context: Jacob, an avid cyclist, had been hit by a minivan on his way to work the day before his message. The story was newsworthy: the driver of the minivan had just tried to hang a toddler in her home and had hit and dragged another pedestrian for blocks as well. Jacob chose to focus on gratitude.

Thankfully, Jacob escaped with his life and two breaks in his leg that required surgery. For someone whose life is focused around cycling, dancing, and skiing, an injury like this could be devastating. But, despite the fact that my friend’s bike was crushed, his spirits most definitely were not.

Last year, another friend who makes his living through physical performance had a major injury that sidelined him for months. He expressed similar gratitude and has made a full, bright recovery. And there’s always the remarkable James Hinchcliffe, the only person ever to survive the type of severe internal injuries he incurred in a 2015 race car driving accident. After a remarkable recovery, he is one of the favorites on the current season of Dancing with the Stars and reports about the crash, “Every day I wake up with an attitude and an outlook on life that I wouldn’t have had without it. So I’m reminded every day of all the good that came out of it.”

A famous 1978 study of recent paraplegics found that they are equally as happy if not happier than recent lottery winners – largely because they are able to gain pleasure from everyday activities that might not give pleasure to someone who has just acquired an outside item. The pleasure of a win can fade, but the pleasure of appreciating life does not.

Jacob’s story, and other stories of survivors, are great examples of how gratitude can make a difference and inspire others. Perhaps because of his spirit, a GoFundMe campaign easily surpassed its $5,000 goal in just one day, climbing quickly (through almost 200 donations of $100 or less) toward the $7,000 mark. People like gratitude. Gratitude inspires gratitude!

Yesterday a friend said to me, “Life it great! It is different every day!” I agree, and this week especially I am remembering to appreciate all the gifts it offers – especially those that might not look like gifts on the surface. I wish the same for you as you head into Thanksgiving week. Can you find gratitude for something you might not have felt grateful for? That’s a practice that will lead to a joyous life.




1 Comment

  1. Brenda – Loved this week’s letter. Thank you!

    No one promised us life would be easy. And with each “failure” in life, we learn from our mistakes and how to avoid them and grow into a more positive person. Every time something “bad” happens in our lives, we can turn our lemons into lemonade and take a positive outlook on what just happened. People appreciate gratitude more than a pay bonus. I remember working in a college financial aid office and working with a student from Freshman year through graduation (and I had helped him and his mother figure out how to fill in all the forms for federal student aid, and they were from out of state, so I helped them navigate their own state’s forms for additional assistance). When this student graduated, I received the nicest Thank You note from his mother, telling me how they never would have been able to afford this university, had it not been for my patience and understanding as they asked the same questions with each year’s financial aid forms. I think I still have that note from that mother, as I was so touched that she took the time to single me out (she may have written 10 other notes) to express her gratitude for my effort to help her son stay on track while attending our university.

    Expressing gratitude shows others that we respect them and know how hard they are working to do things right. I always thanked my co-workers (no matter what their positions). And I thank my friends (and family) for their on-going support and friendship and just for being there when I need to discuss something.

    Although I am sad that my parents are no longer on this earth, I am so happy that my brothers (and one of my husband’s brothers) will come here for Thanksgiving, so we can share our bounty together. We all have so much to be grateful for!

    OK, time for me to bake some pies…..

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