Be thankful for what you have: you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
My extraordinary father, Irving Baker, taught me gratitude because he practiced it – every minute of every day for most of his 92 years on earth.
I’m not sure when he learned the power of gratitude. Born in 1919, he came of age in the Great Depression. Graduating college at 21, he immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. His three years in the service proved life-changing and gave him a profound love of his country – and humanity.
Returning to civilian life, he held many odd jobs in his 30s, from Sears furniture salesman to owning a catering truck. He finally discovered HIS passion – selling Prudential life insurance – in his 40s.
Family life was challenging: both of my older siblings were born with special needs. His beloved wife -- my mother, Florence – died at age 49 of ovarian cancer. And the same year he permanently lost the sight in his left eye from a detached retina. Yet despite the overwhelming challenges that hit hard in 1970, he greeted each day with joy, optimism and gratitude. And for this shaken 12-year-old, it set a course that gave me courage, strength and hope – even in the very darkest times.
My father passed on Jan. 1, 2012, but his sense of gratitude lives on in me.
Every morning, the FIRST thing I do when I wake up is to express gratitude for all that I have. And throughout the day, I continue to marvel at how blessed I am – to be alive, to be loved by a supportive family and amazing friends, to be able to make a living doing something I’m passionate about, to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, to be in remission, to enjoy music and art and trashy TV shows … the list goes on and on.
By living in gratitude, EVERY DAY becomes Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all that I have – my cup truly runneth over. Practicing gratitude – focusing on what we do have at this very moment, instead of what we don’t have – makes life surprisingly sweet. And it protects us when the roughest waves hit.
This week, I want to suggest a challenge: Let Thanksgiving Day be the first day of living a gratitude-centric life. When you give thanks around your table this Thursday, don’t stop there. Go to sleep every night recounting all the positive aspects of your life and wake up every morning reviewing all of the blessings in your life. It takes less than a minute twice a day, and the results can be EXTREMELY profound.
Focus on giving thanks for all you have, and let go of what you don’t have at the moment. Celebrate the present, this moment, this time on earth. Through gratitude, you will find joy.
Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com