Every year at Thanksgiving, I write about gratitude. When I first started this trend, each post listed everything I was grateful for. But my understanding of gratitude has since evolved. I now believe gratitude is a guiding principle for success, not just a feel-good concept.
As time ticks by, I learn a bit more about my disability and how to navigate its many challenges. The world wants me to concentrate on all my challenges at the same time. After all, how can I ignore a disobedient hand, a speech impediment, needing help with daily activities, or any other challenge. Just like people should not ignore chest pains, my car’s check engine light, the call from a schoolteacher, an awkward silence from someone I love and, I don’t know… a pandemic. But worrying about every negative thing is a rotten way to live. It diminishes my trust in others, creates unnecessary enemies and ultimately causes me to miss out on amazing opportunities.
Only by using gratitude as a tool can I stay grounded and focus the proper attention to the challenges with the highest return on investment. Gratitude is not about staying positive and ignoring the negative. Gratitude is a way to supply the optimism you need to chase a goal.
Gratitude and optimism are important tools for me. I could easily paint a horrible picture about what my disability robbed from me, all of which would be technically, one hundred percent, true. However, my sense of gratitude reminds me that it would only be half the story.
For example, I have limited control of my left hand and even less control of my right hand. While I can’t do everything I want, I can still dial a phone, peck slowly on my keyboard, drive my electric wheelchair and use the restroom. Likewise, although my speech impediment makes talking difficult, people can generally understand what I’m saying. My disability often frustrates me to the core, and I wish my body was more capable. It takes a lot of effort to be grateful about the small things I can do well. But that effort always pays off.
This Thanksgiving, it is more important than ever to be grateful for the small things. At a wider level, it looks like we are slowly coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps soon we will no longer need to wear masks or look at others as germ-carrying threats. The freedoms that were suspended will also likely return over time. It’s been a tough slog, and yet there is still plenty for which we can be immensely grateful.
Consider that this great country had most of the economic mechanisms and institutional willpower to avoid utter collapse. Our diligent scientists created a vaccine in record time along with accurate tests that prevented many more deaths. Throughout the pandemic, we retained a semblance of normal life due to the marvelous new technology that let us educate our kids, work remotely and keep ourselves entertained. Some people would be okay with never getting a Zoom invite ever again. But even these folk know that without these technological marvels, our lives would have been far more disrupted.
We can all find something to be grateful for this year, especially now that we can enjoy concerts, sporting events, hug loved ones and (slowly) return to everything that was suspended for a short while. Happy Thanksgiving!