Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Importance of Gratitude

Today is the start of November, the one month out of the long year that many of us actually stop our lives and think about what we have to be thankful for. Why is it that we only do this around Thanksgiving? Why is it so hard for us to be conscious of our blessings every day? I try so very hard to take the time out for gratitude, but yet it’s so easy to let it slip.

Last month I experienced an excellent lesson on gratitude. My husband and I were on vacation for a couple of weeks in Europe. That alone should be grounds for plenty of gratitude, especially during these times of a suffering economy. But still, we managed to slip into the greedy mindset that so easily can take over. You see, we were driving in Northern Italy (outside of Milan, which is a very overcrowded and stressful big city). It was a Saturday evening and we were about 50 miles from our hotel when the traffic on the highway came to a near stand still. With each passing minute the tension level in the car got greater and my husband’s patience for Italian traffic dwindled rapidly. Because his mood (and stress level) directly impacts my mood (and stress level) I knew I needed to calm him down. I tried to come up with rationalization for why the traffic was so heavy and made guesses that perhaps it wouldn’t be this bad all the way back. My husband didn’t seem to fall for that wishful thinking. That was when I told him that the traffic couldn’t possibly be this heavy, this far from Milan city center and that there was likely an accident not too far in front of us. That is when I told him that our situation could have been much worse. After all, we could have been the unfortunate souls in the accident, rather than the ones being slightly inconvenienced by it. The more we thought about the consequences of getting into an accident, the potential to be seriously hurt (or worse), never mind the complications with insurance and health care in a foreign country. We both sat in silence for a few moments and realized how stupid and selfish we were being with our impatience. My husband reached over and grabbed my hand and said, “You’re completely right. We are so fortunate.”

Now this may sound like a good fiction story, but within minutes the traffic started to flow smoothly again. We never did see an accident, but for some unknown reason the traffic jam subsided and we effortlessly breezed right back to our hotel outside of Milan. The rest of the drive was incredible. We held hands and remembered the times, many years ago, when we would have done anything to just be together for a few hours. How easy it is to completely take each other, and our time together, for granted. It was such an awesome reminder about how important it is to be grateful for your blessings every day—not just on Thanksgiving.

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