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The Gratitude List

February 26, 2015

     Years ago I read a tip for our moments of depressed spirits: Make a list of five brief items, every night, for which I have reason to be grateful for that day. Later on, I read of making a longer list, of up to ten items, in the morning, a task that would start the day off right.

 

     When we are in a low point, and all of us have them, it may be hard to find five or ten items a day for which we are grateful. Our minds and spirits may be so downtrodden that we don’t even think that we have much at all to thank God for.

 

     But we do. When a bad mood takes away our gratitude for God’s gifts to us, we need to redouble our efforts to take control of our thought processes. There are always abundant reasons to be grateful for any day, however many challenges have confronted us recently. The fact that we are not practicing gratitude may indeed be why we find little to feel happy about. We are sabotaging our own selves by an impatient and arrogant heart.

 

     We can’t find God’s Presence within if we question His goodness. He won’t mind our doubts, but we will. We will think that life is bad, and is going to get worse, and the very fact of anticipating this sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy, a feature of current day psychology if not religion. We need to get our innermost being back in line with divine providence. We need to learn, again, how to thank God for the little things. And those things may not be so little, but we are just blind to our good fortune.

 

     It has been often said that we will later on thank God for not giving us our heart’s desire. We will see His denial as the best thing that ever happened to us.

 

     Most of us who have lived a few years will be able to think of at least one instance when what we prayed for never materialized, and now we can only say, “Thank You, God!” We would have dashed our foot against a stone if we had followed on that path for very long. He closed a door that He might, farther down the hallway, provide an open window. And now, years later, we know that His Way for us is best. He protected us from what would surely have been heartbreak.

 

     Sometimes the change in direction is a desire to develop other aspects of our personality, aspects that would have lain dormant unless we had been denied what we thought we wanted at the time. I had prepared to teach college English, but I had just a M. A., and a Ph.D. was necessary for tenure. So I went back to school and became a librarian. Teaching is largely a solitary occupation, just one teacher with classrooms of students, listening. I would have gone it alone in that profession.

 

     But librarianship, as practiced in college libraries, is a cooperative venture. Task forces are common; this is committee work that allows cooperation to bring forth the next direction for the library and library activities. I was shy and retiring when young, and this type of effacing personality cried for a chance to be transformed. In librarianship, I found that I developed a few skills over the years that allowed me to contribute without pain in social settings, in committee work. This brought me out of myself in a way that college teaching never would have done.

 

     God knows what facets of our personalities need honing, and He guides us to the experiences that will teach us what He would have us learn. Life is not a spectator sport; we are in this together, ready and willing, it is hoped, to contribute to the common good. If we don’t have the talents developed that He would wish, He will open a way for those talents to come into their own. He will see that we round out our personalities to make the biggest contributions in this world of which we are capable.

 

     I would not have long been happy in college teaching. Just preparing lectures and grading papers would not have held my interest, and it most certainly would not have turned me into a more extroverted person. But librarianship did both, I think, a gift from God that I didn’t have enough sense to appreciate at the time. Librarianship turned me into reaching out to others, not turning back in on myself. It wasn’t just the task forces, the committee work, it was also the constant bombardment at the reference desk of questions to which I had to find answers. One right after the other. There wasn’t time to be solitary; it was a very gregarious environment.

 

     Just what a self-effacing woman needed. And God knew that all along.

Now, when I write my gratitude list, looking back on my profession of librarianship as the right choice is frequently featured.

 

     If you are going through a dark period, first know that this is temporary, but write that gratitude list, focusing on what has gone right in your life—what God saved you from that would have been all wrong. 

 

     And say a little prayer that the clouds will lift. A repetitive, daily listing of gratitude is a powerful changer to circumstances. And it may put you on the path that God wanted for you all along.

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