Choosing Gratitude

I lived in Washington DC for eight years and worked in an office in the heart of K Street, surrounded by high powered lobbyists and stressed international officials, juggling the future of our country in their hands. They went to Starbucks a lot, and I did too – though my contributions to the world at my small nonprofit felt a little less significant.

I would stand in line with these expensive suits and watch them whisper order, with their hands over their cell phones in mid-conversation, and not even so much as nod an acknowledgment to the person behind the cash register. One particularly hectic morning I asked the cheerful barista how she felt about being constantly ignored, trying to empathize with her about the rudeness of this batch of early morning customers. She smiled and me and said, “Sweetheart, I am too blessed to be stressed.”

Her actions every morning and her powerful mantra were reminders that gratefulness was a choice. In the face of rudeness, fear, and even tragedy, counting your blessings and showing compassion for others is a powerful choice.

My life and my family – like everyone’s – has its share of pain, uncertainty, and anger. Some days, it’s just your garden variety low-level discord. Other days it feels so overwhelming that I’m not sure how to open my computer and write to you about kindness and bravery.

Today, and every other day, I want to talk seriously about gratitude and invite you to count your blessings. Gratitude and thankfulness are powerful positive forces. They’re scientifically proven to improve your life!

Robert Emmons, Ph.D. (who has the coolest job ever) researches gratitude and studies the link between gratitude and mental and physical wellbeing. His research found that a practice of gratitude helps combat toxic emotions. Overall it helps increase happiness and reduces depression.

Gratitude also improves your resilience and allows you to respond with kindness. In a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky, participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to lash out against others, even when they were given negative feedback. Overall they experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward others.

I am grateful that my job means reading articles about gratitude. I am grateful that I get to sit at Starbucks and literally count my blessings. I am grateful that my heart swells a little bit as I write this blog. I am grateful that our work calls for kindness and compassion.

I love November because it is a month dedicated to thankfulness. This month I’m giving thanks for you. To be a part of a community like this, with people like you, is an incredible gift. Your support and advocacy mean the world to me and my team. If this work matters to you and you would like to say thank you, you can make a donation today.

Together let’s face the world with a little more patience, compassion, kindness, and thankfulness.