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Gratefulness: My story and how to use it

Thanksgiving is almost here.  We all know (and most of us practice) this time to pause, reflect, and put our gratefulness into action. 

I have had a difficult year.  Been in the hospital four times for a total of almost a month.  I have  had cancer (a GIST) for six years now and we have that under control.  But this year, that tumor caused blood clots in the lungs and sepsis (bacteria) in the blood.  Separately, I have had significant hip and back pain necessitating injections and strong pain medications.   Finally in October, I had that hip replaced, but the recovery included a lot of pain and an intestinal blockage from the opioids (which I had really tried to keep under control). 

I don’t share this information often, but I think it’s relevant to this blog article.  Over the past year or two, I’ve chosen the phrase “Everybody’s Got Stuff” (EGS) to remind myself that others have much worse to deal with.  When we see other people, we may be able to identify the physical issues they face.  Then again, we may not.  Usually, though, the mental, emotional, family, financial, career, housing, and other issues are not readily apparent. 

What has kept me going?  First of all, my wife has been a trooper, saint, and several other accolades.  My adult daughter has also been very helpful.  Secondly, I have had wonderful medical care from multiple doctors, nurses, and facilities.  (I’d be happy to share referrals.) 

I think attitude and faith have played a big part as well.  I KNOW that I will get past everything except the cancer (the tumor is wrapped around the Aorta and can never come out).  Thankfully, I’m able to do all my work virtually now.  Helping organizations, teams, and individuals gives me purpose and fuels me.  Relationships are a major source of resilience – both enhancing the current ones and developing new ones.  Finally, getting outside into nature has been critical.  There’s a new phenomenon called “forest bathing” that I seek whenever I can.  It’s a fully clothed J intentional absorption of nature. 

This blog is about gratefulness.  How do I translate the above into specific actions? 

Beyond feeling grateful, I feel it IS necessary to move beyond that and do grateful things. 

WHY?   Because we all have gifts.  There’s a lot of pain in the world – seen and unseen. 

Everyone has needs.  If we are attentive to and recognize those, we can be of service. 

IMMEDIATE:  Of the 200+ people I’ve met in the hospital stays, most of my interactions have been with an ethnically diverse group of nurses.  They have been friendly, caring, and responsive.  Some, I’ve gotten to know better and have looked for ways to give back.   

Examples include:  using their name; speaking Spanish with the lady from Bolivia that cleaned   my room (helping her feel valued); learning the greetings (hello, goodbye) from those that spoke other languages; providing referrals (dentist, auto mechanic); sharing my favorite romantic song; and encouraging the woman who pushed my wheelchair to define the 5 things she wants from a man.  This isn’t difficult.  We all have valuable things we can give.  Just have to look for opportunities. 

ONGOING:  I reflect on the many things I am grateful for – family; our home with enough acreage for deer, fox, and multiple birds of prey; the freedoms we have because of all those who have defended our democracy; many warm relationships; that in northern Virginia we are free from most natural disasters; and work that makes a difference in other people’s lives. 

PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER:   I do a 10 item gratefulness summary/prayer at the end of each day.  The first 3 are always the same:  I’m alive;  I’m home and not in the hospital (Note: all these hospital stays have convinced me that “I never want to go to jail”);  and my wife.  The others are a mix of some of the ideas above as well as things I’ve been able to accomplish and grateful for the skills or opportunity to do so. 

Action Item:  What can you routinely do to identify and reflect on those things you are grateful for?  To whom can you show that gratefulness and how?  Thanksgiving is certainly a reminder and trigger for us, but how can you ingrain this mindset in your life and behavior?  

When we live and act from a place of abundance and gratitude, we are better able to give and share our gifts with the world.   Contact me to explore how this can be possible for you. 

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