Have you ever noticed how just listing positive traits, characteristics, or events creates an attitude of thanksgiving, gratitude, and sometimes even praise? I am not going to speak about all of the psychological and physical benefits of having an attitude of gratitude, because they have been discussed, and they are many. Thankfulness, true thankfulness, feels good and when it involves another human being, it creates deeper connections.
Have you ever used your spiritual eyes and ears to appreciate your life — you know, the people you are around every day, the common duties and necessities of each day? It really is simple, but it is not easy. The ego definitely is not comfortable with this sort of exercise at first: Why should I? They are mean or stupid or not as good as me or…? Isn’t this job the cause of my unhappiness? Why should I try to find one freakin’ thing good about it? Why should I praise or say anything good about somebody doing a job no better than mine?
You know why? Because it feels good. Because it makes me value myself and my life more. Because it makes me stop being so defensive. Know how that works? When we are critical and negative, deep down our ego is telling us that others are thinking or saying the same things about us, so we better defend and make them look worse than we are. Feels good in the moment, maybe, but if you really think about it later, it makes you feel dirty and ashamed. If it doesn’t, you are really a slave to your self-serving ego. But let’s go on with a practical illustration of how one man did this.
Walt Whitman wrote a lovely poem called “A Song of Joys” in which he looks at the common, daily lives of people, places, things, and situations around him. There’s a catch, however; his evaluation of his physical observations was energized by his spiritual sensing mechanism, his heart. When the heart senses, it doesn’t do so for any motive but to feel good and be in a state of love and peace.
Hear Walt’s expressions at the outset: “O to make the most jubilant song! / Full of music — full of manhood, womanhood, and infancy! / Full of common employments — full of grain and trees. // O for the voices of animals — O for the swiftness and balance of fishes? / O for the dropping of raindrops in a song! / O for the sunshine and option of waves in a song! / O the joy of my spirit — it is uncaged — it darts like lightning.” See what praise does for the spirit? No matter how much ego says, “I just don’t feel like it. Leave me alone,” if we shut ego up, we will have an uncaged spirit, and do you know what an uncaged spirit does? Praises — AND energizes, even when we are bone-weary, dejected, or confused. A joyful spirit creates internal motivation to help us get up and move and express that joy.
You know what, I will speak more about the rest of Walt’s poem tomorrow. Right now, I will share part of my day with you. A younger friend of mind and his wife have a vision and heart to help families affected by autism. They have done much over the past four years for this, but today was the first day that I was privileged to be involved in one of the fund-raising events that they create and sponsor. Great, and I would like to write a lot more about this, and will in the future, but I am, as I write this, in one of those bone-weary, bleary-eyed states. But my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the work of this day that dozens and dozens of people made a reality.
I could have gone through this whole day, beginning with my Morning Pages at 4:00 to be ready to be helping by 8:30, and I would have just been happy to help, which would have been fine. However, through the course of this day, I saw little children playing tag, running aimlessly, sliding with abandon, and shooting hockey pucks across an ice rink now reduced to just the concrete floor for the summer months. They were there because their parents wanted to participate in the floor hockey-type fundraiser, and some of the kids did, too.
After a full eight hours, in which I sat for a grand total of maybe 30 minutes, I met the son of one of the very good hockey players there. His son is autistic. I spoke with him a bit, and he impulsively hugged me. (As I write this, my eyes are filled with gratitude). A few minutes later in all the busy-ness of breaking down our whole set-up, I saw the boy and his little brother trying to score bubble gum from a row of machines. Nothing. I knew their dad would be back in a few seconds, but I pulled out a couple of quarters to put in the machines. I made sure the boy was looking at me when I asked him what he wanted.
Their dad showed up and said they didn’t need anything. I told him it was too late, and little brother was making his wishes clearly known. But his older brother — not so easy. He didn’t want the same thing. He pointed to his choice. I got down low and looked at him and asked him if that was what he wanted. “Yes.” I gave him the quarter and showed him how to put it in and turn the handle, which he kind of knew. He dropped the quarter and we both got down on our hands and knees, looking for it. He got his bubble gum.
His dad said, “What do you say to Mr. DePung?”
“Thank you, Mr. DePung,” he said with his back turned to me.
“Look him in the eye when you say that,” Dad told him.
He turned and looked me in the eye. “Thank you, Mr. DePung.” Then, he gave me a sweet little smile. Not so easy, really, for a boy like him with a virtual stranger.
My heart was filled as I saw the love of his dad in making sure his son did the things that will help him to compensate and learn through his challenges.
And as I look back on the day, I think of the folks who showed up early, industriously putting together little hockey platforms and nets, constructing 18 or so scoreboards, hanging banners and bracket boards and price guides, setting up food and registration tables, filming the day’s activities, playing in the event, paying for the event, buying merchandise from that table — all of it, all of them, because they care. And I got to know some people throughout the day who I was barely aware of previously, good people, thoughtful people. It fills my heart with joy. It makes me thankful.
And I don’t know what the outcome of this gratitude will be, but I know that a little boy with autism who wanted bubble gum helped me view this whole, wonderful, and exhausting day from the eyes and ears of my heart, and that makes this a day that I will remember.
Thank you Steve and Olivia, Shannon, and Kelly — and each of you who were in that arena today. Thank you for caring for others; thank you for giving me the gift of gratitude.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!