Nov 19, 2012 / by Alisa Hafen / No Comments

Today, I am keenly aware of the fact that life is far better than I deserve. Which is saying something these days.

The truth is the world is full of pain and suffering. Hardship and turmoil. Disappointment and regret. So the fact that I can be thankful (and mean it) today is, in its own way, a small miracle.

I am learning there is a responsibility that comes with privilege. I am blessed to bless. Gifted so I can give.

I am not lucky, fortunate, or merely disciplined. I am expected. To do something with the grace I’ve been given.

And so are you.

I realize that being grateful is a choice.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away and the idea of “giving thanks” in the air, would you say you live with an attitude of gratitude?

A friend and I were having a discussion about how grateful we are for the small things in life. As I left that conversation I decided I was going to keep a log of everything I’m grateful for in a given week. One major study showed that people who wrote down what they are grateful for felt 25 percent happier after ten weeks than those who did not. They even felt better about their jobs and exercised an hour and a half more per week.

My first attempts at keeping a gratitude list were pretty weak: 1. Pizza. 2. Nice Hotels. 3. Music. As my list grew, I found more uplift: 114. Freshly picked blueberries. 115. Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book. 116. Freshly laundered sheets.

Having a hard time coming up with a list? Consider what you could NOT have that you have now – Don’t forget your toothbrush, your socks, and clean drinking water!

Often times we compare ourselves to those who have more than we have – Compare yourself to those who have less than you have. That gives you a proper perspective. Speaking of perspective, how about you get an eternal perspective – step back from the current and think of your life in view of eternity. Looks pretty good, huh?

Think of a person who has made a major difference in your life and whom you’ve never properly thanked. Compose a detailed letter to him or her that expresses your appreciation in concrete terms, then read it aloud, face-to-face. It’s very moving for the giver and the receiver. Be prepared for tears.

These short-term exercises woke me up to the value of the little things. How would a gratitude attitude help my friends with cancer? Or the couple who’d announced their divorce? Or the father of three who’d told me he couldn’t find a job?

Gratitude is never so important as during those times when everything appears to be lost. Finding something to appreciate, can save us from absolute despair – in a way that abject complaining cannot. I discovered that truth while I was visiting with my friend whom was suffering with lymphoma.

Despite his suffering (or perhaps because of it), our connection grew more meaningful. “I realized when I got sick that I’d spent years worrying about things that mean absolutely nothing,” he told me. Celebrating life while it’s here, he said, was most important now.

I hope you take some time today – wherever you are – to come up with your own list. And if it doesn’t come naturally, don’t let that stop you. There is still much to be thankful for. Here are ten of my reasons to give thanks today:

1- I am thankful for my health, despite that I am in a wheelchair, I am healthy. Most of all I am alive.
2- I am thankful for my wife, who vowed to be my biggest fan on the day we were married and has never once let me down.
3- I am thankful for touch. That I can feel a small part of my body when my children give me a hug.
4- I am extremely thankful for my children. Not only because they are mine, but because they are healthy and they excel in school and help their mother with things that I cannot.
5- I am thankful for my friends. For the many hundreds of people that I have been blessed to meet because of my paralysis and the friends that I have had for years.
6- I am thankful for the internet. I would not be nearly as busy as I am without the wonderful ability to use social media, my website, etc.
7- I am thankful for prayer. I am thankful that when we eat Thanksgiving dinner my family and I have the ability to give our thanks.
8- I am thankful for second chances. That we have the opportunity to heal relationships, to forgive and be forgiven.
9- I am thankful for airplanes. They allow me to travel the world.
10- Lastly, and most importantly, I am thankful for Grace – for love that cannot be explained (only surrendered to), for a Creator that inspires creativity, for purpose and a hope that there is more to the story than we see.