This wouldn’t be a message of gratitude if I didn’t start by saying thanks to the person who invited me to speak on the topic this weekend. After about 5 years of being connected online and seeing each other perhaps once a year at most Jessica Eileen began to invite me to her monthly worship nights. For the November occasion she developed the theme of Thanks in line with the season and asked me to give a message on Gratitude.
Obviously I was excited to be asked to speak, but extremely nervous as this would be something I’ve never done before. Yes, I’ve spoken in front of large crowds before, but I’ve never spoken from the heart. It was essentially bringing a blog post to life. The first time since Catholic grade school that the word God would come out of my mouth into a microphone. The first time I was speaking without a script from a company or a brand, but pure inspiration. I made note cards to help I was so nervous. But first I wrote out my message into my phone’s notepad as if I was blogging and from that transcript I created my bullet points for the spoken words. In hopes to inspire more this month to practice Gratitude I am sharing the transcript as I wrote it in this blog post.
We are all just one hospital bill away from being homeless.
How do I know this? Because I’ve had to pay for an ambulance. It is not cheap. I will be the first person to say “get me an Uber” before I ever call for an ambulance. In January I went to the hospital (Drove myself to Anaheim Regional) for the flu. High fever, delirious. I felt the need. Even with insurance it cost me $150 co-pay. Regardless of how much the amount is in comparison to how much I, or any of us make. I know that this was just a flu. There are so many worse things that can happen to any of us health related that could aside from the bill that could change your life, the actual physical affects and time done to your body could change your life.
It is in this example that I want to share the two ways we can express Gratitude.
You can be grateful in two ways: You can be grateful from experience on an empathetic level or grateful simply on a human sympathetic level.
So me having experienced the ambulance bill, I am grateful every time I need to go to the emergency room and NOT take an ambulance. This is gratitude on an empathetic level. I’ve experienced the pain of having to pay for an ambulance so I know first hand how to be grateful for this. I am in the waiting room, triage has me probably 3, 4, maybe 5 hours deep behind people still waiting an hour and gushing blood. But I say, Thank God I was able to drive myself here.
And let me make a note of that. Thanking God does not diminish the human ability. I was very much a non-practicing Catholic for the past 10 years, never atheistic, but very scientific method driven. In that community, sometimes I hear, well if you Thank God that you got an A on your test, then why did you study? Or if you are going to Thank God for getting a raise at work, how did He help, you did the work, your bosses recognized it, God didn’t have a hand in that. But I guess for me that’s not my definition of God. God is not human. Of COURSE he didn’t have a HAND in that. God is much more than we as humans can ever conceptualize. To thank God and be GRATEFUL to the one that made EVERYTHING possible. Because I don’t care what religion you are, there is a FIRST that made everything possible and like a domino effect we are still feeling that effect.
and because of That, at the very least I am grateful for life, (which I know), grateful for each breath (which I know), grateful for my legs (my leg has cramped up and I’ve had to use crutches, I know what it’s like to not have legs for a bit). Every single thing that I have (add the things up, there’s a lot to be grateful for) I am grateful for on an Empathetic level.
Now, what’s harder in life is recognizing that which you don’t have. This is sympathy. It’s easy to be sympathetic towards someone when they come to you with a problem. But how do live your life being GRATEFUL for all the world’s problems you DON’T have.
This takes Character. And character, I believe is the sum of your habits.
Part of being grateful is making gratitude a habit.
Not just in November. Not just at Thanksgiving.
It’s why some of us were taught young to pray before every meal. This gratitude of a meal becomes a habit so that we are continously grateful for food even when we are not eating. We know the value of food. And when I’m at the super market I’m giving Thanks even as I’m adding items to my cart! Tomato! Thank God! Banana! Thank God!
I’ve been blessed to never have starved. As MUCH as we like to compete how hood we had it growing up.. The quesadillas for dinner. The buttered toast for dinner. Assuming you grew up in the US. We don’t know real starvation. The starvation of a third world country. I don’t know it. You might not know it. Perhaps you’ve served and you know it, but other than that this is a sympathetic gratitude of our character through habit.
Now, there is so much hurt in the world that we will not all experience. Cancer, loss of a child, an allergy to your favorite food, undesired relocation, a cell phone blowing up, hurricane, tornado, earthquake (well we know earthquake. I close my cupboard doors all the time in my house and am thankful for not having an earthquake)
But I am also grateful for not having a hurricane come through here. Not just during hurricane season either.
Even listing all those, I had to think. And I’m not perfect, I’m not grateful EVERY day. But I can tell you when I go to sleep I’m thankful for the breath I take before I dose off and even more grateful for the first one when my alarm goes off. I may not get up. But I’m sure glad to be alive.
I encourage you throughout this month to think about the things you can be grateful for, each day something new. If there’s something that you are really grateful for, give thanks the next day. And the next and the next. There is no limit to how much you can give thanks to God for something. God is all things and limitless. So to be always grateful will not be overwhelming.
You may see this pattern of thanks become a habit for you, which will build your character to be grateful.
Practice thinking of both empathetic and sympathetic gratitude.