When you learn your gratitude lesson, it sticks forever. Mine came when my son, Ronan, then 2 years old, started limping. After months of trying to find the cause, he could barely walk. A nuclear bone scan on Christmas Eve revealed an egg-sized tumor in his hipbone caused by Langerhans cell histiocytosis. LCH, a cousin of cancer, is a so-called “orphan” disease because of its rarity and lack of funding.
The news was shocking and painful to process, but Ronan’s prognosis was good. We couldn’t quite see how a year of chemotherapy injected into a port in his chest was good news. But it was.
This article first ran in November 2014.
Years of worry about abstract stuff seemed silly and selfish. This was real.
My friend told me once that she liked to list gratitudes in her mind as a meditation. I liked that. I used her idea like a superhero’s cape, a shield, a sword, an anchor, a whiskey, a blanket, an anti-depressant, a panacea.
In bed late at night, when the fear would come out to play in my mind, I’d list my “gratitudes.” And it worked.
The fear would come and I’d blow it away — and out of my mind — by listing my gratitudes, one by one. Before long, I didn’t need late-night gratitude meditation. I lived it. It surrounded me all the time, like a bubble of glitter.
Six years later, it still surrounds me. This lesson sinks in deep. It stays. It changes life forever.
Every night, at the dinner table, our family says our “gratefuls.” We hold hands and go around the table and say what we are grateful for. Sometimes the kids are silly and that’s OK, because we are learning as a family how to remember what we are thankful for: the many hands that harvested the food we eat, good behavior from the kids, the kindness of a family member, the joy of completing a project or success at work or school.
One day, my kids will hold their children’s hands and do “gratefuls” at their own dinner tables. It may take a while for the message of that simple act to sink in, but once it does, it’s there for good. They won’t need a do-over.
Every Christmas, our family gives back in some way to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where Ronan was treated. We donate gift cards and bags of new toys and dolls. Some of you reading this might feel similar gratitude for the doctors and staff at Phoenix Children’s, or some other hospital.
Start where you are. Make your gratitude actionable. You won’t have to dig very deep to find a well of things you are grateful for. Once you name them, act on them. Let gratitude be your guide. It will light the path.
Carrie Bloomston is a local artist, designer, creativity enabler and author of The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity.