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Mary E. Vandenack: The Season of Gratitude

Transform Life with the Power of Thanks

Touch it. Experience it. Own it.

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A few weeks before this article was due, I felt sad one day. I happened to discuss that with my son who inquired about why I was so sad. I replied, citing the one thing that was missing in my life at the moment. My 16-year-old looked at me and said, “Wow, I think you are having a gratitude problem.” He was right. As I thought about it, it occurred to me I was letting one thing that wasn’t in my life override the joy of the many things that were.


For a long time, I made a daily gratitude list. I had gotten out of the habit. I started doing it again that day. I am sharing some of the things that have made my list recently. I hope that through the holiday season, you will consider joining with family, friends, and others in living life as a thank you. As I have made my list of items I am grateful for, I have also made a conscious effort to say thank you. Positive energy perpetuates - as does an attitude of gratitude. 

I am grateful for those who annoy me. It is easy to be grateful for those in your life that love you and are a part of your inner circle. It is more challenging to be grateful for those who annoy us. I have learned that those who annoy me are my best teachers of life’s greatest lessons. Why do they annoy me? What is it about me that allows myself to react to another person with negative thoughts? Imagine a day in the world in which everyone could walk through the day with total acceptance for all others. 

I am grateful for those who serve. This year I was at a Husker football game on September 11th. Firefighters, police, and rescue workers were being honored. When a group came out on to the football field, the crowd cheered. My son turned to me and said, “Wow, they cheer louder for those guys than the football team.” I replied to my son, “Yes, of course. If it were not for those that serve, we wouldn’t be sitting at this football game.” Several minutes later, the man sitting next to me said, “I just wanted to tell you thanks for saying that to your son. I have recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan.”

I am grateful for those who work in jobs serving the public. This is a long list of varying occupations but I thought about it recently on a day when I talked to a hairdresser and a barista at Starbuck’s. Both were sharing the challenges of working in positions where you’re constantly serving the public. Both noted a significant number of instances in which people were borderline abusive about issues which the server had little control. After listening to their stories, I have gone out of my way to thank those in service positions.

I am grateful to be the parent of a 16 year old. In a public place recently, my son engaged in some behavior that I can only describe as being very 16. I commented on the challenges of parenting a 16 year old, claiming “it is interesting.” A mother nearby said, “Well, my son is 21 and it is interesting.” Another said, “Mine is seven and it is interesting already.” Another said, “My son turned 35 and it remains as interesting as it was at 7, 16, and 21.”

“Gratefulness - the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness - goes beyond boundaries of creed, age, vocation, gender, and nation.”

- J Robert Moskin

I am grateful for social networking. I love technology. I particularly love Facebook and LinkedIn. So much of technology results in less personal connection. Facebook and LinkedIn have increased it. While there are certainly a lot of things on Facebook I would rather not see, the use of it has allowed me to re-connect with special friends from the past. Recently, I had lunch with someone I had not seen in 20 years. It was a fabulous lunch and an incredible re-connection. I have made a point of thinking who I have lost track of, finding them, and re-connecting. It has been rewarding in many ways.

These sites also allow me to do a better job of keeping track of friends and family. With a few clicks, I can get details and pictures of my niece and nephews. I can also keep track of my cousins and their worlds.

I am grateful for my friends. Friends make the world go around. Friends love us when we are unlovable, pick us up when we fall down, laugh when we aren’t funny, and care when the world shuts us out. Lately, I had been working so hard doing the single mom career juggle that I hadn’t had the time for my friends. I made more time for my friends this year and could write a whole book on the gifts that come from nurturing our friendships.

I am grateful for my health. With each year that passes, I become more and more grateful for health. Over this past couple years, I have lost friends suddenly and experienced minor challenges of my own. Our health is so important. We simply must make our health a daily priority.

I am grateful for my work. I have a job that I love. I know that isn’t true for everyone but if you do have a job you love, realize just how big that is. For many years, I was unappreciative of my job. Through the economic challenges of the last few years, I have learned to say “thank you” every day that I have work.

The above list is my “short-list.” Once I started making my list, it kept growing. I have the most fun trying to figure out how to be grateful for the challenges in life.

-end- metroMAGAZINE





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