Many times, we write about the things for which we’re grateful instead of telling stories of gratitude. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve even suggested it myself. (See, for example, my post from 5 years ago: Write about Gratitude: 6 Ideas). Counting and sharing our blessing is therapeutic and can bond us with family.
But often, interesting stories of gratitude languish, untold, behind those lists. Stories that the rest of the family would love to read or hear.
In fact, the whole idea of stories behind sudden moments of appreciation came to me after Internet service was restored to my house. A simple outage made me deeply appreciative of something I take for granted day in and day out.
Luckily, most of our stories run deeper than that.
Tell the Stories of the Circumstances that Call our Attention to our Blessings
Last summer, I worked with a project called Youth United, in which interfaith youth were given the opportunity to learn more about each other as they worked together at C.A.R.E.S. of Farmington Hills, an emerging village of hope. Among other improvements, the service camp resulted in the transformation of the food pantry into a grocery store. Rather than receive a bag of food, clients can now shop for items for their families.
We knew this would grant clients more dignity but were unprepared for clients’ tears of joy and appreciation. Holding a can in her hand, one client told the pantry director, “You don’t know what it means to be able to read the ingredients before taking something home to your family.”
Clearly, we didn’t.
But through her words, we understand how much we take for granted.
Family Stories Instill Gratitude
Without question, family stories are often stories of gratitude. From one generation to the next, accounts are passed down. How the family came to a new land, for example, and the hopes and dreams they fought for. The times they went hungry. How freedom was won. The evils they escaped from.
These stories morph from tales of courageous foreparents to a family narrative.
This knowledge of past hardships and the appreciation of current blessings becomes part of the family heritage, invisibly etched on the family shield and psyche.
Exchanging Stories of Gratitude Matters
Hearing others’ stories of gratitude can help us count our own blessings.
In How to Practice Gratitude, Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests exchanging such stories with friends and family as a path to gratitude. In addition to sharing what you’re grateful for, you can introduce others to things you enjoy.
[Block Quote] …introduce a visitor to the things, people, and places that you love. Show off your comic book collection, your favorite park, or your favorite niece. Doing this will help you see the ordinary details of your life through another person’s eyes, affording you a fresh perspective and making you appreciate them as though you were experiencing them for the very first time.
The best part? Sharing stories of gratitude is good for us. Biocybernaunt Institute reports, “From top scientists at Harvard, Yale and other leading research institutions all agree that gratitude has profound effects on the brain and body.”
What circumstances called your attention to your blessings that you might have otherwise taken for granted? Silver linings in the dark episodes of your life?
What’s the biggest (or hardest) lesson you’ve learned about gratitude?
What themes of thankfulness run through your family narrative?