[Column] The Miracle of Gratitude

Helen Keller who suffered from deafness, blindness, and mutism once wrote the following:

If, by some miracle, I were granted three seeing days, to be followed by a relapse into darkness, I should divide the period into three parts. On the first day, I should want to see the people whose kindness and gentleness and companionship have made my life worth living. First I should like to gaze long upon the face of my dear teacher, Mrs. Ann Sullivan Macy, who came to me when I was a child and opened the outer world to me…. The next day – the second day of sight – I should arise with the dawn and see the thrilling miracle by which night is transformed into day. I should behold with awe the magnificent panorama of light with which the sun awakens the sleeping earth.…. Now I begin my rounds of the city. First, I stand at a busy corner, merely looking at people, trying by sight of them to understand something of their lives. I see smiles, and I am happy….. If I had sight I should be like most other women – too interested in styles and the cut of individual dresses to give much attention to the splendor of color in the mass. And I am convinced, too, that I should become an inveterate window shopper, for it must be a delight to the eye to view the myriad articles of beauty on display.

Oftentimes we remain ungrateful in spite of the privilege of fulfilling Helen Keller’s wish everyday. Recently I read an interview with a North Korean woman who left her children behind and escaped to China in the Korean Chosun Ilbo (November 19, 2010):

“I am a former teacher, who taught at a public school in Chungjin for 25 years. During that time, it was common to see the children absent from classes. That was because they could not sustain as a result of famine. Afternoon classes were eventually eliminated. My daughter withdrew from school while in the 9th grade. In the end the teachers withdrew as well. With a teacher’s salary, you could only buy 1 kg of rice. I stopped teaching 6 years ago and sold noodle in dried radish greens broth in the open-air market. What was most astonishing about China were neon signs everywhere all night. Never before have I seen this kind of world. My hometown Chungjin had electricity from 7 to 10 P.M. That was the time slot for the public cultural education by the state-controlled Chosun Central Broadcast. While in North Korea, I could buy no more than one kilogram of pork only on national holidays. Whenever I eat beef soup here, I get choked up as I think of my children.”

This interview is a reminder that many things we “rightfully” enjoy in our lives are in fact things to be grateful for. There is a hymn entitled, “Count Your Blessings.” If we are aware of the blessings God has given us and can count them one by one, we are the happy people of God who live according to His will. Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Success is living according to the will of God. Therefore “being thankful in all things” is a criterion for success in life and the DNA of true spirituality. Matthew Henry, a well known theologian, once met a robber and eventually became grateful. First, he was grateful that he was not dead. Second, he was grateful that he still had family and possessions. Third, he was grateful to God that He made him not a robber but a pastor. Lastly, he was grateful that he finally realized how grateful he was. He who can render gratitude in all circumstances is truly happy.

Deborah Norville, a former veteran anchor in the U.S., authored a book entitled Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You. In it she writes that it only takes 0.3 second to say thank you. Yet saying it brings about tremendous miracles. There was a girl from America named Emma. She was hit by the police patrol car that was chasing a fugitive. As a result, her hip was completely shattered, her lungs damaged and her sexual functions lost. She became wheelchair bound and had to spend much of her day in bed. In spite of her tragedy, she discovered the power of gratitude. She says:

“Laugh for one minute everyday. I am alive as you can see. I must have something left to do if I barely escaped my brush with death. I am proud that I survived. Regardless of how angry you may be, just laugh for a minute. Laughter overcomes all things. The police did not purposely cause the accident. Don’t think too much. Have faith that all will be well. Be grateful to those near you.”

What transformed Emma into a positive individual? It is the power of gratitude. The gift of gratitude is enormous. Gratitude brings health and joy. It drives away depression, worries, and anxieties. It repels anger and pain. Gratitude also produces attraction. It knows no void and cherishes every moment of your life. Gratitude enables you to love even if it engenders heartache. Gratitude sees even an ordinary daily life as divine grace. Gratitude brings happiness and success in life.

The following is a beautiful poem on gratitude by Sister Claudia Haein Lee entitled, “Happiness of Thanksgiving.”

That the first and the last prayer of this day

The first and the last prayer of this year

The first and the last prayer of my life be “thank you”

I want to whisper thanksgiving with a gentle breath-like song

Give thanks and you will be beautiful.

Give thanks and you will be happy

Give thanks and you will be warm

Give thanks and you will laugh

Professor Chris Peterson insists that gratitude is also education and resolution. It is said that people conjure up over 60,000 thoughts a day and over 90% of them are negative anxieties. Think positive thoughts and train yourself. Make use of Thanksgiving Notes. Write down at least three things to be grateful for everyday. Let every cell of your body become the living expression of gratitude. Gratitude will glorify God. Gratitude will have you fulfill the will of God even in the midst of imminent tragedy and pain. Won’t you receive this wonderful gift of miracle known as gratitude?

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