Opinion: Fostering gratefulness in everyday life

Posted on Nov 28 2017 - 7:59am by Tripp Bond

Welcome back to campus! I know you don’t want to be here. Trust me — it’s hard for me to want to be back in class, too. But here’s the thing: You should be thankful to be back.

We just finished celebrating a day all about being thankful, but if we’re honest, most of us only cared about what that day meant for us: expecting or dreading family, eating too much food and taking advantage of Black Friday sales.

Unless your family has a tradition of going around the table naming things you’re thankful for, I’ll wager that no thoughts of gratitude crossed your mind. Not that it’s your fault; it just is what it is. Even if your family does have such a tradition, it’s likely you only put in half effort on the spot.

Am I being presumptuous in saying this? Definitely. Am I wrong in guessing the majority of you acted this way? Probably not. And that’s a shame. For lack of want, we in first-world nations have lost what it is to be truly grateful. However, for those of us who are haves and not have-nots, there are two ways we can foster gratitude — true gratitude — within us.

Last year, I was almost constantly in a negative mood about having to go to class. It was less of a conscious bad attitude and more of a subconscious negativity. I think many of you share this feeling of just loathing class and work.

Anyway, I overcame this and actually became grateful that I could go to class. How? By putting myself in the global perspective. This is the first method for gaining gratitude.

At the time, I was listening to an audiobook called “The Insanity of God.” In it, the author describes in great detail a prolonged, independent mission trip he took to Somalia. The terrors of that war-torn land quickly changed my perspective on my life. I had absolutely nothing to be negative about; my “problems” were petty and nonexistent compared to those people’s.

Where I woke up dreading class, they woke up on a dirt floor, dreading the likelihood of their own demises that day. Where I got upset over my grades, they were terrified of military-grade land mines — the leading cause of child deaths in Somalia. While I was uneasy about whether I had enough money in the bank to buy this or that unnecessary thing, they wondered where their next meal would come from. While I sometimes selfishly didn’t want to wake up to worship my God, they were murdered by radical Islamists for worshipping theirs.

It hit me all at once: In the global perspective, I have nothing to feel negative about and everything to be grateful for. Suddenly, the mundane things of life took on a whole new light. My dorm bed may not be comfortable, but at least I have a bed, and above that bed is a solid roof, and in that roof is a heater and air conditioner. Sure, the food at the market may not always be what I want, but at least I have good, healthy food I enjoy, and my stomach is happily full with it. The walk to class might be far, but at least I have freedom of movement and don’t have to dodge bullets or land mines.

Researching how bad others have it around the world will shut our petty complaining down hard. Yes, I said “our,” since I still catch myself letting first-world problems get to me. It also has the bonus of making us more caring for those with less.

An example from scripture can be found in 2 Corinthians 8. There was a famine in Jerusalem, and the followers there were starving literally to death.

The apostle Paul went from house church to house church throughout Greece and Macedonia, asking for alms to give the Jerusalem church. The house churches in Macedonia were hurting financially due to a recession or depression in the economy there. However, when they saw how much more the Jerusalem church was hurting, they begged Paul to let them help.

Paul says, “Their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity” and that they gave “beyond their ability, (begging) us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry.” Christians or not, we should let our gratitude for what we have, in light of what others do not have, turn into generosity for the betterment of mankind.

Earlier, I said there were two methods of seizing true gratitude. The second is known as the “George Bailey Effect.” In the timeless Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character, George Bailey, wishes he had never been born, because his life is so utterly terrible.

Then, an angel grants him his wish and takes him on tour of a world where he had never been born. His wife is a lonely old maid, his children were never born and the town is run by a tyrannical banker. At the end of the story, he begs the angel to set things right and put him back.

The angel puts him back, and George is forever grateful for the life he has, because he sees what it would have been like without the things in it that made his life so wonderful. For the effect to occur in your life, you need to sit down and imagine or write out how different your life would be if you didn’t have the things you take for granted.

How different would your life be without your parents, your siblings, your bed, your hot showers, your friends, your educational opportunity or your spouse? Realizing how different — and likely worse off — your life would be will show you what Bailey discovered: It’s a wonderful life you have.

Tripp Bond is a sophomore history major from Meridian.