Having an Attitude of Gratitude
We have it so good.
We do, we really do.
On any given day it’s easy enough to find something to complain about. As human beings, it comes awfully easy to us. We don’t like it when things don’t go our way. When our seat gets bumped on the airplane, and we end up in the back right next to the bathroom door. When the electric bill slides into our email and shows an increase of 25% since last month’s bill. When it snows and our vacation gets delayed. When we have to sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office for an extra hour because they’ve had a couple of emergencies.
Complaining comes naturally, and we’re all guilty of it. We like our conveniences, we like our comforts. We like our lives free of interruptions and unexpected curveballs.
I think about my grandparents and how utterly different their lives were from mine.
My Grandma Holland grew up in a family with ten children during the Great Depression years. Her mother died after childbirth when she was 13 years old, and I remember vividly the stories she used to tell me about all the things her papa did to make ends meet and put food on the table, how she and her sisters helped to raise the younger children and the infant baby born right before her mother’s death.
I remember my Grandma Johnson telling me about the schoolhouse a mile or two away from where she lived. She and her brothers and sisters would walk there every day and did so until the seventh grade, after which there was no more schooling available to them. After that, she began working, taking care of her aging parents and getting married when she was sixteen years old.
After she’d had four children of her own, she worked at the cafeteria in the local hospital. One night when she had worked late, her car had a flat tire on the way home. It had been snowing for a while and was very cold outside. The tires had chains on them to increase the traction on the snow and help the car not to slide off the road. Alone on that country road, with nothing so convenient as a cellphone for dialing 911 or calling a tow truck, she removed the chain from the tire, hauled the spare out of the trunk, jacked the car up and changed the tire herself.
My grandmother has always been a strong woman, but I would wilt at the prospect of doing what she did that night.
My Grandpa Johnson left her and four young children at home when he was called to serve in Germany during World War II. No Skype then, no phones for a quick call to say ‘I’m okay’.
For prolonged periods of time my Grandma didn’t know whether he was alive or not. He was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war until the war ended. He watched one of his buddies wolf down so many of the donuts brought to them by the Red Cross upon their release, that he died because his body was used to eating almost nothing.
I’m thankful that my grandparents told me these things about their lives. I know for a fact that it has shaped my thinking about thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude for what I have and for the things I haven’t had to do in my own life.
Everyone has difficulties. There’s no such thing as a free ride in this life. That’s a given, but in comparison, well, there is no comparison to this point in my life or my children’s.
And so I think I’m obligated to pass down my grandparent’s stories about their lives and what they lived through. I think it makes me obligated to live my life with an attitude of gratitude. Working on that.