by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
Recently, while on vacation in Boston, I was sitting in the café at the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Appropriately titled, the café named “Quotes,” featured a wall presentation of lighted statements from various authors, leaders, and thinkers. As I sat enjoying my coffee and crème brule, a quotation appeared that captured my attention because in many ways it described the roadmap for progress in my life.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
(Melody Beattie, Author of Gratitude: Affirming the Good Things in Life)
I’ve come to understand gratitude as an attitude that is consciously chosen regardless of circumstances. Gratitude is a viewpoint from which our life can be observed. For we either see what is there or we dwell on what is not. Gratitude lights our view to what is already there. Gratitude helps us to see what is right and good in our life. Gratitude has the power to broaden our vision and help us see options and prospects that were only obscured from our point of view. There are many examples in my life that have taught me more about the transforming power of gratitude.
I was a young child when I first witnessed this power. It was a time when my mother and I were without a home and income and had little else. This time of my youth was the bleakest it would ever be in my life, materially speaking. However, as I’ve often said, it was the gift of gratitude my Mom and I gave to each other that brought peace during those uncertain days and actually created a vision and expectancy of a brighter tomorrow. Fear, doubt and worry being replaced with an attitude of gratitude enabled opportunities to be seen that led to a new career for my mom and a successful and happy life in a new city for us both.
I was in college when I again witnessed the effect of gratitude. My mom very much wanted me to go to college, an opportunity she never had. I never had a doubt that college was where I was suppose to be, but neither my mom nor I knew where the tuition money would come. My mom had saved enough for my first semester, but I literally headed off to college on a leap of faith. I had learned well in my early childhood that how I think and perceive my life experiences could impact the finale of each experience. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude kept me centered with confident resolve on present needs, one semester at a time. Remaining optimistic and expectant, adequate funds were earned, borrowed or granted throughout my college journey.
William James, 19th century American psychologist and philosopher said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” A contemporary of James who was an influential teacher, religious leader and author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in her best-selling book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “We are all sculptors, working at various forms, molding and chiseling thought.” Then Eddy speaks of the choice we have in which model we place our gaze upon and how this choice determines the outcomes of our life. She further wrote, “We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives.” Throughout my life, I have seen the results of an attitude of gratitude, decidedly shaping every experience, every job, and every relationship.
My most recent encounter with gratitude led to remodeling my present home and loving my “new” old home – something I once thought impossible. The year 2001 brought many financial changes to my life. My job was cut to part-time, our savings invested in the stock market dramatically diminished and the hope of building a new home was all but lost. The depression of these times for a while caused tunnel vision where it was difficult to see anything but lack and loss. But it was gratitude that widened my frame of vision and enabled me to conceive ideas for my current home I never considered or thought possible.
One of the opening lines of Eddy’s book, Science and Health, is, “The time for thinkers is come.” This is true for all times. Be a thinker. You always have a choice in how you think. Choose an attitude of gratitude. Living your life from a grateful heart will help you overcome every hill you have to climb. I promise you, it is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Gratitude will hold you in the spirit of joyful expectation. You will maintain a focus on what is really important. And you will keep a powerful antidote for any problem in your pocket – gratitude.