Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Decorate with holiday gratitude

     #OptOutside on Black Friday, supported by such national companies as REI, closed their doors and encouraged outside pursuits instead of a giant shopping binge.

     It got me thinking.
     Let’s start #OptInGratitude.

     With a little extra time management on your part, wrap gratitude as the first present of the holiday season.
     Suppose you spend time thanking all the people that randomly pop into your head – the ones that have crossed your path and made a difference in your life. There are incredible stories waiting to be remembered pleasantly, along with a lot of decisions influenced by just the right person at the needed moment.
      The majority of us brushed past those thoughtful souls at the time never realizing their value until much later, if at all. In cases, you may be able to thank individuals in person, by note or call. Sadly, many have passed on.

     Consider the family members other than your parents that stood out and guided you in your earliest years.

     I had a cousin four years older than me who was an outstanding pianist. She could have gone on to study at any conservatory, yet she was a background person, and found the most pleasure in accompanying other musicians.
     She and I formed a bond when she offered to play for me for high school solo competitions. I could count on her making my melodies on the flute sparkle by taking her part seriously.
     I look back at her entire unassuming life as a giving one, and I am thankful that she was an exceptional role model for others. When she passed away, her church installed a perpetual flame in the sanctuary in honor of her hours and hours of service.

     Think about the people that helped you along your way when you first started your career.

     In my case, the most influential person in my early teaching years was a third grade student. She taught me to pay attention to what was right in front of me and look at each and every student as a unique individual.
    Far too many children are hurting, anxious and silently crying out for help, and only perceptive adults notice them. Unfortunately, in her case, she was a victim of circumstances beyond her control.
     Although I have had principals, fellow teachers and instructors they were invaluable in my career, it was an eight- year old child in a dark green dress with tiny embroidered flowers on a rounded white collar sitting in the front row center that still brings tears to my eyes today for all that she did to make me a worthy educator and better human being for having had her in my life.

    Ponder a most unlikely friendship that you made during a period of your life.  

     Several years ago when I first started writing professionally, I went to a small hamlet in the Finger Lakes region to interview 4 separate entrepreneurs for a magazine article featuring their location as a day trip destination. It was meant to be a business trip for collecting information – or so I thought.
     However, when I left town that late afternoon – one of the people invited me in between interviews for a home cooked lunch - I had become friends with unique people that are still important to me today. We gather when we can to catch up with each other’s busy lives.
      Remember the person who said the gentle words to you when you were struggling with health issues or sadness.

     I am grateful for a particular colleague at work I didn’t know very well who called me at home the first thing when she heard why I had left school so abruptly one morning. It was a small gesture, yet she sent a powerful message.
     My father has passed away and I was preparing to travel to the funeral. She simply offered any help that I might require. Whenever I remember that moment in time, I think of how she reached out with thoughtful words.

     Consider the person who guided you through financial instability.

     My eyes were bigger than my pocketbook when I saw just the brand new car on the dealership’s lot. I wanted that car and all its associated glamour.
     The salesman reminded me that I loved to travel, and by buying a more sensible model, I would be able to continue going places. I followed his advice, and although he didn’t get a large commission from this sale, I did end up returning to buy a couple more cars in later years from a person with integrity.  

     Be grateful for the person who came to your rescue and you never caught their name.

     In my youthful foolishness I never checked my car’s engine light before driving on the highway, and I broke down. A stranger – a local person actually- picked me up and took me a couple miles to the nearest town to a friend’s and I called my car dealer for a tow.
     Somehow on purpose, this man came to my aid in a gentle manner when I was going through a vulnerable period disliking everything about my life and not trusting a soul. As I look back, it was a tiny step on my learning curve and marked a change in my attitude about people.
     Make this exercise into a daily habit, and you might start a gratitude journal as I did back in July.