"For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God." (D&C 46:11)
I believe some are given that gift of gratitude, born with it if you will, while others of us have to work at it to obtain and receive that gift. And that's okay! Regardless of whether we seem to have an inborn ability to be grateful or must daily work at it we have all been commanded to give thanks to God, to show our gratitude for our blessings.
"And ye must give thanks unto God in the Spirit for whatsoever blessing ye are blessed with." (D&C 46:32)
"Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;" (D&C 98:1)
So how do we go about obtaining the gift of a grateful heart? How do we help our children obtain this gift? As I've been collecting posts for my Grateful Hearts, Giving Hands series this month a few simple but profound 'actions' seem to be focused on repeatedly. These are, I believe, the very things that will help us to develop the gift of a grateful heart. Are you ready for them?
Is it really that simple? Yes!
Have Faith. Before we can truly be grateful we need to know who to be grateful to. We must develop faith - faith in our Heavenly Father who is the giver of all good gifts, faith in Jesus Christ who makes everything possible through the Atonement. Doing the other two things on the list - serving others and counting your blessings - will not help you to develop a grateful heart if you do not first have faith. Curls, from Motherhood the Great Adventure, beautifully explained her journey to gratitude by first developing faith. Please, go and read it! She explains it very well using her own life as an example.
Serve Others. This can be as hard or as simple as you make it to be. Serving does not need to mean big, extravagant service projects. In fact, it is the little things you do each day that are the most beneficial, not only to those you serve but to yourself as well. Calling a friend, sending a quick note (or even e-mail), giving a compliment to a cashier, singing a lullaby to a distressed child, donating five dollars to a worthy cause, all are easy to do but make a big difference. Pray at the beginning of each day that your eyes may be opened to the needs of those around you in your family, your close associates, and those whom you will meet in the community that day. Remember the words to the hymn we sing:
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.
I wonder how many opportunities I have missed because I have been too caught up in my own little world of 'cares and sorrows.' If I actually knew I'd probably be pretty ashamed of myself. My goal for this week (and this month) is to look for those unexpected opportunities to serve every day.
Count Your Blessings. We've heard this one over and over but that's because it is so simple it needs to be beat over our heads! Many of us are like the Israelites of old who, when bitten by poisonous serpents, just needed to look up to the brass serpent Moses held to be healed and live, we fail to be happy because as the prophet Nephi clarified, "And the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished" (1 Nephi 17:41) We think the path to happiness cannot be as simple as that, "Wickedness never was happiness." And so we go looking for a more complex answer. But it isn't complex. Read the experience Pres. Henry B. Eyring shared in the October 2007 General Conference, summarized in the New Era:
"When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done."Not only do we sing this:
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done."
but we also sing this:
When you start feeling a pity party coming on change it into a surprise party, count your blessings. You will feel so much better!
Is that where our journey ends? Nope. Counting our blessings leads to greater faith and the cycle continues.
Elder Eyring again:
"More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened. . . The key to the remembering that brings and maintains testimony is receiving the Holy Ghost as a companion. It is the Holy Ghost who helps us see what God has done for us. It is the Holy Ghost who can help those we serve to see what God has done for them."I just realized while typing this post that these three simple acts bring us JOY. You've heard what JOY stands for, haven't you?
Isn't that interesting? The very steps to developing gratitude are those same things that bring us joy and happiness if done in that order.
During this month of Thanksgiving I encourage you to be an example to your children of developing a grateful heart. Show your faith in Jesus Christ, look for opportunities to serve each and every day, and at the end of the day before retiring to bed count the blessings you have noticed that day - bubbles on soft baby lips, vacuum lines in the carpet, a husband's wink.
And I promise you, you will find JOY.