09 Dec Gratitude
The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
When I sit and contemplate all of the words I could use to describe 2020, gratitude is probably not one that jumps to the top of the list. At least not immediately.
During Thanksgiving, we are all encouraged to take time out of our busy lives to reflect on our good fortunes and to give thanks. Thanks for our health, our family, our friends, our access to food, water, shelter, and clothing. Thanks for the positive in our life.
As I paused over the last few days I started to think about the importance of gratitude.
My observation is that many, especially in the U.S., confuse being thankful as meaning the same as having gratitude.
Many of us often believe that having gratitude means to be thankful or to give thanks for the good we experience and acquire in life. Others believe it to be the acknowledgment of what others have done for you or what you appreciate about others in your life.
As I was reading ‘Meditations – Marcus Aurelius‘ the last few mornings I came across the following statement,
“Convince yourself that everything is a gift of the gods. That things are good and always will be.”
It made me think. I thought about that statement for a very long time. I wrote it down. I went back to it. I kept thinking about those words, everything and convince.
What if Marcus was correct in his statement? What happens if I reframe gratitude to mean more than only the good things that happen in my life? How would my lens change if I were to begin convincing myself that everything that happens in my life is good?
As I began to apply that to 2020 it made me think a little bit differently.
Nearly 1.5M people have died during this pandemic. Many of whom have died alone. That is a fact. It is a sad fact that we cannot change.
What we do with that knowledge as a collective global community is yet to be determined.
However, there are some positive observations about the pandemic.
I have seen scientists band together to combine research, innovation, and technology to try and accelerate the process of finding a vaccine that is both safe and effective.
I have seen front line staff within medicine risking their lives, sacrificing time with family and friends, impeding their own mental health because of their dedication to delivering patient care at the N of 1.
I have seen families focus on spending time with one another talking, playing games, having movie nights, being active, sharing laughs, and spending time away from their devices to have deeper connections.
I have seen people in communities and the patients they may become to begin being a bit more considerate of their fellow neighbors by wearing a mask, hand sanitizing, and keeping the appropriate social distance. I have seen people begin to think a bit more about the person standing next to them and a bit less about their own self.
In a year in which we have seen tumultuous racial inequalities and struggles I also see promise.
The promise of an open and direct conversation. One with constructive conflict underpinned in compassion. Conversations are occurring around the dining room table. Conversations are occurring in our local communities. In our small businesses. Conversations at the state and national level. Conversations about race, access, bias, economics, historical restriction, and the broader judicial system.
It is with these difficult conversations that we begin to see a bit of light and a glimmer of hope.
Hope in seeing a new breed of leadership beginning to emerge.
Leaders that are deep in empathy and compassion.
Many of us throughout this year have focused on what we have not been able to do, where we are unable to go, and who we have been unable to see. We have focused on the tragedies, the trauma, and the restrictions.
Yet one thing rings true throughout 2020, the human spirit is resilient.
When humanity is faced with a crisis we tend to erase the boundaries and categories that we use to define the tribe that makes us unique and we shift to focusing on the collective expertise that defines us all as humans.
History has demonstrated that as a race of humans there is nothing that we cannot face directly, define the problem, and work collaboratively to find a solution.
Perhaps that is the silver lining in all of 2020.
We know the process to create a solution.
We have the technology to accelerate the production of the solution we identify.
However, it is the people that determine our success.
In addressing and erasing the lines, the silos, and the very things that make us different we begin to understand what keeps us connected, our humanity.
This weekend, more than any, I have immense gratitude for everything that happens in my life.
I have gratitude for my family, my friends, my colleagues. I have gratitude for the privilege I have due to the work of all those that have come before me. I have gratitude for all things, including this pandemic, the racial struggles, our economic burden, and even the deaths I have witnessed in my own family.
I have gratitude for all the moments in my life.
Those moments have made me who I am as I type these observations.
Gratitude is what powers my own resiliency.
Resiliency in each of my moments.
Gratitude at the N of 1.