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metroSPIRIT: Practicing Gratitude in Daily Life

"Rethinking the Term 'Treat'"

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“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.”  
– Brother David Stendl-Rast

Treats are the small joys in life.

When I was in my early thirties, I was an avid runner. I loved everything about running. I loved to run in the heat, the cold, the rain, and the wind. It didn’t matter. Once I started to run, the many challenges of the rest of my life seemed to slide off with the sweat from my run.

I loved the turn of winter into spring. Spring meant running returned outdoors. Being on the 180th Street end of Zorinsky Lake in the early hours of the morning is an amazing experience. Before dark, you are likely to be greeted by wildlife right on the path.

To help motivate me to improve my running, I participated in many of the races around town. There is a great group of people that show up regularly for the various races.  I will always remember one experience that occurred during my brief “morph” into triathlons. In one race, I passed a woman in my heat on the last leg of a race to take the lead. She cheered for me as I passed her. I will never forget that moment. That was often the spirit one found early on Saturday and Sunday mornings at the various racing events.

When I was training, I had one somewhat bizarre post-workout tradition. I would stop at a Kwik Shop and buy myself a “treat”. I once mentioned my tradition to a friend who looked at me and said “Isn’t the ability to run seven miles at that pace without stopping ‘the real treat’?   Food isn’t a treat!”

That statement stuck in my head. Shortly after that, I gave up my post workout “treats” and instead kept a journal of the number of miles I ran, cycled and swam. I noted each as “Today’s Treats.”

About 18 months after that comment was made to me, I had a cycling accident on the Fourth of July. I broke my leg in three places and it was rebuilt with plates, screws, and pins.

It took me nine months of rehabilitation to reach the point where I could barely break into a jog. Doing so was painful but I was determined. I wanted to race again.

One year after the date of my accident, I ran again in a race. I participated in the Fourth of July Fun Run in Ralston, a long time tradition of family and friends. On that day, I ran an excruciatingly slow twelve minute mile but it was the proudest mile I ever ran. I was determined to finish. I did.

What had once been easy had become a challenge. For three years, I tried to return to racing. I struggled with constant injuries of some sort related to the change to my body. With great sadness, I gave up my running career and moved on to other forms of athletics.

Giving up running was one of my life’s great losses. I still miss it, especially in the spring. I am so grateful that before that moment came, someone had pointed out that my ability to run was the treat and that it should not be taken for granted.

It is so easy to take so many of life’s gifts for granted. Being on crutches helped me realize how far it can be from the parking lot to the door of a mall, how steep and narrow a set of stairs can be, and how quickly doors close in our face as we try to get through them. Ever since, I often choose to park at the end of a lot as a way to express my personal gratitude that I can walk in. If I see someone on crutches or in a wheelchair, I wait for them and hold the door. I never park in handicapped parking spots, not even for “just a minute” or “because there are so many empty.”

Every time I teach a spin class, walk up the steps in my house, go for a hike, or play golf, I am grateful because I can.

I keep a gratitude journal. When I’m feeling off, I look at it and I try to add things. They are simple things. I am grateful that I can hear the music my son plays, even though I sometimes don’t care for the type of music. I am grateful for the ability to pick up my son’s socks from the hallway floor. He is still around. I am grateful to be able to see the stormy weather moving my way. I am grateful to be able to read the newspaper, even though it often bears bad news. I am grateful I can pick up a pen to write. I am grateful that I have a voice I can use to talk to my friends. I have so many treats in my life.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or
consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
– Denis Waitley


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