In this time of Thanksgiving, let’s examine true gratitude for…… EVERYTHING.
As I continue the 2nd half century of my life, I continue to look back and examine all the blessings I have had in a very interesting and diverse existence. I have accomplished many things in my years, I have had a lot of help along the way, and much more to come. I look back and acknowledge the high points such as athletic accomplishments in my youth through college, my family, children and grandchildren, the success of some of my entrepreneurial business ventures, my leadership, management, and executive positions in the private and public sectors, and most fulfilling my non-profit and service work that I have gotten so much from by simply giving.
A big part of what I am committed to today is teaching gratitude and examining simple ways to express that gratitude. I speak to youth, as well as educators and parents on ways to bring the concept of gratitude expression out. I am always committed to looking for the positive in every situation no matter how bleak that situation may appear.
In order to provide more perspective, allow me to share a short summary of the last 20 years of my life. Since the year 2000, I have been able to achieve more than I dreamed. That includes purchasing a house for my family, raising three beautiful daughters, and getting valuable experience in the workforce. In 2003, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team that caught lightning in a bottle with the rise of Internet-based business and made more money than I ever imagined. With those blessings, I was able to start my own non-profit that served youth by designing and facilitating mentoring and life-skills. For the next 7-8 years business was flourishing and my non-profit was serving more kids each year. Things were good, at least they looked good on the surface.
However, one day I asked for help. I closed the door to my office and asked my higher power to solve my problem of trying to serve two masters. I was being spread too thin by leading the booming internet business and running my non-profit for youth.
Although my business was providing the personal income I needed to support my family, our lifestyle, and funding to help serve others, my life was out of balance.
I was overweight, on several medications, and simply not happy. I needed change on a deep level and I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I had been grateful for EVERYTHING up to this point. And then…In 2008, the financial crisis reared its ugly head. Several things happened that I now realize were a part of me getting the answer to my “help” question. Within roughly 60 days of my “request,” I lost everything. I lost my business, and ironically because of the economy I lost the two major funding sources that supported the majority of my non-profit services.
I was broke, and even worse my source of spiritual fulfillment through service was gone as well.
I had accumulated many things which included two homes, cars, and other comfort possessions. I realized things were about to change whether I liked it or not. I have to admit that I kicked and screamed initially about the change and tried to rationalize or jump into immediate action to restore some of the past. Now I can say, those efforts didn’t provide much relief, but any effort is movement and any movement, as long as it is forward, is positive.
Here’s what happened next… as I mentioned I lost pretty much everything. Both homes, most material possessions, two bankruptcies, and a lot of personal and family pain. But, I did do one very important thing. I gave thanks for all I had and the fact that I was alive and able to do more. I knew that this would not be the end of the road. I made a decision to get healthy, focus on my passion and the gifts that I knew I possessed to impact others. I knew my direction and I was grateful for that clarity.
I needed that clarity because enduring the things listed above took a lot out of me. I felt the burden of the world on my shoulders for my family. I am not ashamed to say that some days the water was cut off and the electricity was cut off because I was juggling so many bills just to keep the services on. Eventually, time ran out and I didn’t have to worry about those utilities anymore. We had to move on, into different living arrangement, the self-reflection and guilt continued. But, I kept practicing gratitude, even at the most challenging times. I kept working at working, finding new avenues of income and found my way out of this financial and personal hardship.
What is my message during this holiday season of thanks you might wonder after reading this far?
The message and lesson is this: I became more grateful for EVERYTHING. I think it is easy to be grateful for all the good things that happen in your life and how blessed you may feel for your blessings but gratitude to me is about lessons, teachable moments, and acceptance. I am grateful for surrendering, and having the ability to adjust. I am grateful for the simplest things in my life. I now smile when the water flows from the faucet, when the lights come on when I hit the switch, and when I go to sleep and awake under a warm blanket and a roof even if I don’t own that roof. I look at so many things differently because I found a secret that helps me understand life…gratitude.
Show and express authentic gratitude for your loss and troubles……. As well and as equally for your gains and successes. A few takeaways…
- Material loss sheds what may not be necessary for your ultimate purpose in life.
- Financial loss provides lessons if you have not been a good steward with the blessings you have.
- All loss tests your strength, inner fortitude, resilience and grit.
- All setbacks are setups for something greater.
- Loss, troubles, and setbacks keep you from being complacent.
Be grateful for everything / celebrate everything. It is all happening FOR you instead of TO you.
Happy grateful Thanksgiving,
PS- My oven broke the other day and I am grateful that some local caterer is getting my business this year to help expand their business and client list. (See how that works?)
For breakfast, I had a honey wheat english muffin with peanut butter.