WHY I GIVE THANKS: Choose an attitude of gratitude this holiday

Laurel Larson Collins
Special to NEW Media

Just as there is a difference between happiness and joy, there is also a difference between thankfulness and gratitude. A link connects the two, actually. Let me explain.

To be happy is an emotion requiring outward circumstances to be favorable to have happiness present in life. Consequently, happiness is most often fleeting. To be joyful, on the other hand, requires deliberately choosing to be joyful and to remain positive even when adverse situations arise.

In like manner, being thankful is also an emotion that depends on favorable outward circumstances to prompt expressions of thankfulness. Consequently, thankfulness, too, is frequently fleeting. To be grateful, however, requires deliberately choosing an attitude of gratitude regardless of whether outward circumstances warrant it or not.

Obviously then, the wiser choice — although not easier — is the choice to be grateful. But when making that statement perhaps you and I, like the students I teach (and yes, I am still teaching), run the risk of too quickly passing over a small — but critical — two-letter word to hastily focus our attention on the big word of grateful. That little two letter word is the word “be.”

Given that I am a teacher, allow me for a moment to get a bit technical. Typically the word, “be” is a verb, but in the phrase “be grateful,” instead of showing action, the word “be” is a helping verb. Thus, the word “be” in the statement above then conveys meaning, and packed with meaning that little word “be” certainly is.

During my 74 years of life, I have learned that for me to live a more consistently joyful and happy life, I first had to learn — and practice — how to “be” a grateful and thankful individual. That learning came from finding the more things I was ungrateful for, the more I found myself complaining and the more, and more, unhappy I became.

On the flip side, when I was grateful for even the little things — yes, even those things that were not so pleasant — and proceeded to express my thankfulness for them, the more joy and happiness I experienced as a result. Was that always easy to do? No.

What made it possible for me to hold fast to my decision to “be” grateful regardless, was the firm belief that because God is love that he will — in some way, somehow, sometime — use even the bad times in life for my good and another’s benefit. Now add to that my firm belief that because God is good all the time and all the time God is good, I can, therefore, always find something for which to be grateful.

Am I always successful in this endeavor? No, but remember, I said it wasn’t easy.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is I will steadfastly continue choosing to “be” grateful, and live a more thank-filled life, because I know from experience that a lot more happiness and a lot more joy will continue to be consistently mine when I do.

Laurel Collins volunteers her time with several community organizations in Mattoon.