Path to Joy
This morning, I was busy trying to get a discussion forum post completed, for my school work that day. The purpose of the assignment was to talk about how gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance have to do with happiness and joy. Of the required resources for the week was a video that we were supposed to watch and use as a source in the assignment. I began intending just to watch and use it as a source for the “gratitude” section of the assignment, but I was drawn in to the content of the short video. It was a Ted-Talk from a woman talking about her year-long “gratitude project”.
She began by explaining that several years into her marriage, she had gotten into a rut of depression and dissatisfaction that she knew she didn’t want but had no real idea of how to combat it. She had grown very cynical, but one of her assignments as a photographer got her into contact with a nun who had been a spiritual counselor for some time. She talked about her own unhappy status, and the conversation soon wandered its way toward the “secret to happiness”. The older woman responded with her belief that the secret was reflection — and gratitude.
The nun challenged this woman (Hailey Bartholomew) to spend time, each day, reflecting on what she was feeling grateful for in the little moments. Not what she was “supposed” to feel grateful for, but what actually struck her as worth reflecting on in the moment. Big or small, she would take one moment to reflect on whatever she was feeling thankful for.
Since she was a photographer, she took a single photo a day, every day, for 365 days. She ensured she bought enough Polaroid film for all the photos that would be taken over the year. At the end of this project, she had come to realize many things. How much she was amazed by the depth of the color green in a simple flower, how she loved that when it was raining she could use her favorite umbrella, and how she had come to recognize the privilege of being a mother.
She also told other little stories, like when a ladybug landed perfectly on her daughter’s shirt, like a little piece of jewelry, and how she just had to capture it — despite her daughters immediate joy and then immediate regret about how close the bug had landed.
She had one big story, like how she began to notice the fact that her husband, without a word, would always give her the biggest piece of pie or come home from work with ice cream after a long day at a house with no air conditioning — or simply hold her hand as they drove.
She began to realize how much he loved her because of these little things that he did, every day, without a word, and often without any recognition. Because she took the time to see it, to be grateful for it, to see the beauty and love and wonder around her, Hailey reports one thing her husband said that confirmed the profound change in her life and her worldview: “I feel like I am enough for her now.”
As she intentionally practiced this moment-to-moment gratitude each day, she began to stop looking at people in ways that related only to herself, but saw them more and more as people. Whether they were strangers encouraged by her project, her two daughters, or her husband, she explained that she had come to see the world in a brighter and happier light. This same attitude affected the world around her. All of this was reflected in the quiet and often simple collection of photos she had taken
There was a point in the video where she broke down and voiced just how grateful she was for her life and how she was able to celebrate and be thankful for real, in little moments every day. I was struck here — I had to write about that. I wanted to try something similar; I could privately make mental notes, even just once a day, about something happening that was a great blessing or worth being grateful for, and think: “Thank you, God.”
Besides that, I also wanted to make a list of some of the things that I am immediately thankful for — not only the things I should be grateful for, though I can always be thankful for those, but even things that seem tiny and insignificant that are still God-given reasons for real joy. If I practice gratitude for these things and for every other thing (serious and silly, big and small) I am convinced that the same joyful atmosphere will be apparent and beneficial to others.
Here is said list:
I am grateful for a warm and comfortable bed in a safe, spacious and peaceful home.
I am grateful for the sound of singing birds in the trees outside my window.
I am grateful for easy access to technology that makes life simple.
I am grateful for comfy chairs.
I am grateful for fun, entertaining, silly movies about superheroes who fight for virtuous and worthwhile things.
I am grateful for the laughter and conversations and discussions about anything and everything when my family is in the car together.
I am grateful for a good book and a good story.
I am grateful for cheeseburgers.
I am grateful for Heritage.
I am grateful for the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
I am grateful that I am never alone.
I am deeply grateful for everything Jesus has done for me and everything that He is still doing.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)