I asked Maria and Mario what they were grateful for while we ate dinner tonight.
Maria: eggs (she had just brought some back from Grandma Meg’s and Peepaw’s farm); little grapes (we had found “baby” sized grapes in the bunch of grapes earlier in the evening); and her grandmas (all three of them!).
Mario: for a wonderful night; mom and dad and Ria and Cy (“I miss him, mom”); my grandmas; and the farm.
Mom: for the bike ride and for 62 degree weather and for our new home.
I try to ask this question every night in order to reinforce how important it is to recognize all the wonderful people and things around us. As part of my training to be a culture shaping facilitator at the university, we performed an exercise around gratitude. We were asked to think about how many times through the day we stressed about something or we wallowed in self-pity because we did not have something or we missed someone or we failed to get something done. Then we were asked to think about all that we did have – be it a home, significant other, health, car to travel in, clothes, friends, etc. Most of us realized that when all was said and done a great majority of our life was good. We had a roof over our head, we were able to travel, we had family who loved us, we had a pet who licked us, we fed ourselves three meals a day (if not more); yet, we realized that we tended to focus a significant amount of our time and energy on the negative things or people in our lives.
Hence, the idea of practicing gratitude. Ever since that training, I have consciously made an effort to push myself to be grateful, especially during the times I see myself heading downhill. And I figure if I can start M&M praciticing it, they will be experts by age 10.
And it’s not that hard. Each day, I find myself tripping over a wealth of things and activities and people for which to be grateful. Tonight, I was grateful for the chilly fall weather that allowed us to throw on our sweatshirts and bike helmets and take a ride to visit our friends. I love watching M&M head out on their cycles, laughing and talking the entire way to the destination. Maria sings songs to herself. Mario points out each animal and flower he sees on the way. I love seeing the grin on Maria’s face as she turns a corner all by herself and the excitement in Mario’s voice when he spots a squirrel behind a bush. I try to allow myself to see the world anew like M&M. When Mario points to the squirrel, I look at the little critter and wonder if he will find a nut, what tree he will choose to climb, how many brothers and sisters he has at home. When Maria turns that corner, I remember back to riding my back with Beth Ann, my grade school friend, and how thrilling it was to speed up and down our alley.
M&M keep me practicing gratitude. It is hard not to practice it when I have them by my side. Hopefully, our evening ritual will become embodied in them to where they hit the pillow at night and think about all they have to be grateful for in the day that is about to pass under them. The stars, the night, a warm blanket, sweet dreams….