The assignment sounded easy enough. For one month I would keep a “gratitude” journal where I’d make note of things in my life that I feel grateful about. I’m a relatively positive person and I assumed this would be a walk in the park and now that I mention it, something like a walk in the park is the exact type of thing I should show gratitude towards! This was going to be fun and, perhaps, even enlightening. And then I started the actual journal.
The day I began the journal I was ending a summer trip with a few friends in the great American southwest. We were all going our separate ways and at the airport I found myself sitting alone in the terminal people-watching and taking in the mall-like environment. With the concept of gratitude on my mind, especially after a few days with long-time buddies, I took out the journal to, presumably, write about my good fortune in having these relationships. However, before I could jot down a single thankful syllable I saw something that explicitly made me feel gratitude. My first entry went like this: At this moment I am extremely grateful to not be a mid-western gentleman struggling to eat a slice of airport pizza with a plastic knife and fork. This journal entry was simple, accurate and pathetically insubstantial. However, my first thought immediately was that I wished my just departed friends had seen this because they’d find it funny too.
A few days later I was with my family in Chinatown about to order a feast in our favorite restaurant there. Charlie was headed back to college the next day and hitting this restaurant pre-departure had become a nice tradition. I knew going in that it would be an admittedly lightweight no-brainer for me to write about my gratitude towards the remarkable crab/pork soup dumplings we were imminently going to devour. Yet after perusing the menu and making our choices, like the proverbial light bulb, a moment I was grateful to experience occurred: After ordering what we sincerely believed, was a reasonable amount of food the waiter looked me in the eye, paused and simply said “too much food.” I told him that we knew what we were doing and to please carry on. This humorous moment immediately made me think of my father, a great gourmand, and how proud he would have been of his very hungry family. What a sweet moment!
Later that night, journal in hand, I was thinking about the evening and considering how it was just filled with things I am thankful for. Just the mere fact of the four of us being together was now a special thing. Not even to mention my daughter’s stunning inner and outer beauty, my gorgeous wife’s remarkable intelligence along with my son’s ongoing evolution as a scholar and compassionate human being. However, the journal entry I ended up with was: Charlie drove us to Chinatown this evening and he was incredibly proud of his well-executed, under pressure, Manhattan parallel park. I re-read this entry and admittedly it may sound slight in the context of an exploration of personal gratitude. However, I felt fulfilled, grateful even, noting that my boy has embraced the ability to find beauty, meaning and humor in the mundane acts of daily existence.
Upon reviewing my journal entries, I was initially disappointed in how flimsy they seemed. I never considered myself shallow but there sure seemed to be a lot of entries that involved food, humor and way too many about playing softball on the newly crowned New Castle “B” league Champions, The Dirty Mac! OK, perhaps that one is just a tad shallow. So, I reviewed every journal entry and quickly realized, with some relief, that upon closer examination all the entries, even softball, were connected to those things one would assume they’d be thankful for: Family, health, love, relationships, etc.
I whole-heartedly recommend keeping a gratitude journal even if it’s a finite endeavor. A daily pause to consider what we are grateful for can be insightful and somehow just feels appropriate in these trying times.