Do We Need Tragedy For Gratitude?
def — the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
I began writing this piece in a park in Bucharest, Romania. I came back to it in the Ukraine on an evening when everyone was out, and again in the Netherlands. Each time I was hoping that my response to the question I was asking myself would be different.
I asked the same question that I asked you: How are you feeling?
I wanted my response to be, grateful, fortunate, privileged, amazed, but the truth is none of those words came up. I was nervous, tired, hungry and also excited. These were welcome emotions but seemed to be off the mark given the experience I was having. So I followed up with another question, then another.
Why was my response not being led with expressions of gratitude?
Why is it sometimes so difficult to address gratitude?
Now, if I just continue into my relationship with gratitude, it may brew up some feelings of your own, for the moment, or spark a bedtime conversation with your partner. And for most of us it will disappear by the time we wake up. So before doing that, let me introduce you to a few people…
Joe’l Gonzalez, who was paralyzed in 2017 playing basketball at a local YMCA.
Eduardo Garcia, the professional chef who was electrocuted while exploring the wilderness, leaving him with many exit wounds and a prosthetic left arm.
Paul de Gelder, the Australian Navy Clearance diver, who lost an arm, and leg in a violent shark attack, and now works as a conservationist.
These three come to mind because I’ve heard them speak, and address gratitude. They can’t escape it. Each day they face a mirror, a reminder of the events of their lives, and what the alternatives were. Still, with their reality, they arrive at gratitude.
For most of us, we may not have this type of “reminder.” We’re moved by these stories, we allow ourselves to take a moment to arrive at gratitude, but struggle with consistency.
Why do we need tragedy to be grateful for what we have?
It’s a question I struggle with. I’m fortunate to be without these life events. Sure, I’ve been affected by death, watched the motivational documentary and heard the speaker with the triumphant return, but I don’t want to rely on these pieces to deliver me to gratitude.
The truth is, we have a reminder each time we look in the mirror. It is ourselves.
Completely. Beyond our body is a set of events, items, luxuries that we have to be grateful for. All places for us to begin. And through this raw, and public evaluation of my relationship to gratitude, I want to encourage us all, to identify where we can incorporate a more frequent practice for this.
For some it may be before a meal, others a morning ritual, or an evening journal entry. All different, all effective.
Just this evening I had fresh fruit, took a long hot shower, and am accessing high-speed wi-fi. These are luxuries, the sames ones I had difficulties recognizing I am grateful for. There is no perfection in this practice, but I am excited to see what this looks like tomorrow, next week, next month.
Will you join me?
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