Do you want to be a virtuous person? Give thanks...
Marco Tulio Ciceron stated that "gratitude may not be the most important virtue, but it is the mother of all others." In the Salesian houses, we are no strangers to gratitude - our founder Don Bosco was always an example of what it means to live with a grateful heart, as he himself used to repeat “from a grateful heart everything can be expected”. More than 130 years after his death, his attitude of gratitude continues to transform the world and the lives of many children and young people.
Can you be thankful in the middle of this pandemic?
Even in the midst of problems and a pandemic you can give thanks to the people around you who work essential jobs in the fields so that you have food on your table, for the opportunity to spend an unprecedented amount of time with your family that you otherwise would not have been able to do, for being able to spend so much time with yourself, and for being able to breathe at this precise moment. It is possible for every human being to have gratitude once he can recognize all the good that is in himself and in everything that surrounds him.
From the ordinary something extraordinary?
"There are only two ways to live life: one is by thinking that nothing is a miracle and the other is to believe that everything is" - Albert Einstein. Don Bosco chose to live life thinking that everything is a miracle, and he implemented this mindset in his own way in the Salesian houses by saying, “do something extraordinary from the ordinary". To make the ordinary into something extraordinary, you need a grateful heart that knows how to marvel at the miracles that happen every minute.
Happiness and growth?
Happiness is found on the path of growth. We never stop growing; we are always expanding. Even when we get old and even though our bodies begin to deteriorate, our spirit and love continue to grow, we continue to expand, and we continue in the path of happiness.
Which comes first: happiness or gratitude?
You can be grateful when you are happy, but the key is to appreciate and recognize everything we come across in our existence as a gift. If we can see everything as a gift, we can realize that there are so many intangible and free things worthy of giving thanks for, such as every minute, every breath, every person, every feeling, every meal, and every detail in our lives.
Once we have recognized all these gifts, then we are able to give thanks for them and subsequently find happiness. The key is to first give thanks in order to find true happiness, not to give thanks solely when you feel happy. If someone is waits for happiness to come to them before giving thanks, they could be waiting an entire lifetime without realizing how much they already have to be thankful for. If you are not grateful for what you have now, you will never be grateful, even when you get what you want. When you stop worrying about what you don't have and can be grateful for what you already have, you will be on the path to happiness.
Why do I feel unable to give thanks?
If you feel that you have no reason to be grateful, it is time to work on your humility because if you do not learn to appreciate what you already are and already have, it will be hard to become a better version of yourself and to appreciate things later on that may come your way.
If you do not thank others, it is perhaps because you cannot open your heart to other people and to other worlds because you feel fragile and fear that they will hurt you. If this is the case, you must recognize that you did not come into the world alone, that you are not in the world alone, and that from the beginning of your existence, you have needed others and others have helped you. This new perspective and sense of community will make you feel grateful.
Gratitude: past, present, and future.
We are temporary beings - we can remember what happened this year and last year, we can know that we are here and now, and we can also think about tomorrow. Our temporality becomes different with gratitude: our past makes sense because gratitude can transform what was once and may still be painful into calm joy by turning denial into acceptance, it fills our present with inner peace, and makes tomorrow a hopeful day.
Arithmetic of blessings… difficult task?
When you start to count the blessings in your life, your life will change because you will realize the innumerable blessings that you have and you will not be able to stay satiated without taking the next step - you will begin to seek to share your blessings and it will be very difficult for you not to share.
"Gratitude is the memory of the heart" - Lao Tzu. The challenge that I give you on the eve of Thanksgiving is to open to your heart the people who have made a difference in your life and thank them. It may be that you thank someone in your family, a friend, a teacher or tutor, or a SFYC Staff. Remember that your life is going to change when you start recognizing and sharing your blessings.
Look at the sky at night, observe the beauty of the stars, realize that you are one of them, and thank those who helped you shine ...