Living Gently: A 30-Day Challenge: The Art of Thankfulness

H.U. Westermayer once said, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” In this country, we set aside a day every year to be thankful, though ideally, we’re making thankfulness a daily occurrence. I think that most people want to assume they are grateful for what they have. After all, it doesn’t take much to realize just how fortunate we really are (just read the news). But based on how materialistic we are as a society, are we really thankful? If we are, then why do we need “more stuff”? Why can’t we be happy with what we have?

My husband and I just finished listening to Dave Ramsey’s audiobook, “The Total Money Makeover.” We decided to put his technique into practice and we are working on being content with what we have, instead of spending money on things we don’t need.

As I listened to the basic principles of Dave Ramsey’s plan, I felt deeply ashamed. I have wasted so much money on stuff I didn’t need… things I’ve long forgotten… things I never use… Why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had? Why couldn’t I just be thankful for the things I’ve been blessed with? No matter what my salary has been at various points of my life, I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve always had a roof over my head. Water has run freely from the faucets and, other than the time our furnace went out, heat or air has always been a mere flip of a switch away.
I’ve never gone without. But somehow, I’ve shamefully allowed myself to look beyond the fact that my needs were all covered, and ignored what I should be most thankful for: a family who loves me, amazing friends, and food and shelter to cover all my needs.

I’ve told my readers before that I often write this column as much for myself as I do for you and this month is no different. Please join me this month in my 30-day challenge: Learn the art of being thankful for what you have. I think this is especially important as we enter the holiday season. What would things be like for you in 30 days if…

  • You start every morning off by identifying something you are thankful for
  • You end every day by identifying something you are thankful for
  • Say “Thank you” often
  • Before you spend money, decide if it’s a want or a need
  • When you have extra money to spend, give it to a charity and be thankful for your ability to be generous to those in need
  • Smile often – smiling is contagious and makes everything better – you’ll be able to better identify your many blessings!
  • When you have a bad day, make sure you take a few moments to be thankful for the positive (there’s always something in any situation for which to be thankful!)

Thankfulness is something we frequently talk about, but how often are we putting it into practice? This Thanksgiving season, I’m making a commitment to be thankful every day, for every blessing in my life, both big and small. Someone once said, “Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel.” I’m taking their advice to heart.