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RONAN SCULLY: The art of thankfulness

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CLARE Echo Thought for the Week columnist Ronan Scully shares his thoughts on the importance of gratitude

Albert Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life, one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as if everything is.” Perhaps one of the greatest geniuses of the previous century, Einstein expressed so eloquently a life philosophy predicated upon gratitude and thankfulness.

Over the past year or so I have been giving a lot of thought about needing to develop a deeper gratitude for those things which I am truly thankful for. Great power comes into our lives when we choose to live with thankfulness and gratitude in our lives. Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive.

It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress. I am so thankful for all the wonderful people who allow me to share my life with them such as my family, my friends, my colleagues and people who help me with my charity work, many of whom have become friends.

I am extremely thankful for the privilege of having all of you in my life. So rather than being resentful and worrying about what I don’t have or what I think I should have more of, join me and let’s focus on all the wonderful things we do have, especially our relationships with the people who enrich our lives every day!

When we view our relationships and our life through the eyes of gratitude and thankfulness, our inner world becomes a place of peace, joy, happiness and tranquility and it then radiates out from our very core and influences our external reality.

Gratitude and thankfulness provides a mindset that allows us to see the good in the people who make up our lives and this vision extends to the world at large. Thankfulness puts us in a place where we truly want to give back to the world for all we have and it injects positive feelings into our relationships and allows them to expand from a place of love and abundance.

In life, you will meet many people along the way. Each person who touches our life brings a gift. Some will touch you more than others, but each person comes into your life for a reason. Many times we don’t exactly know why. This person could be a teacher, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend or a stranger.

Maybe this person listens when we need to talk or cry. Maybe they help us financially when we are broke. Maybe they talk to us, when we need a different perspective. Maybe they hold us when we don’t deserve it. Maybe they sit with us when our grief is too much to bear alone. Maybe they are just there, so we know we are not alone. How have we acknowledged this help? Have we taken their gifts of love, mercy, compassion, and hope out into the world and offered it to others? We all need to give something back to this world of ours that will help others along their paths. I think we all need to be more thankful.

As this year comes to a close, stop, think, and remember all of the people who have crossed your path and be thankful for them. Say it out loud, say it in silence, but say it. A thankful heart is one of the best things a person can develop. It turns situations around. When we are thankful for what we have, more will come.

We reap what we sow, when we are appreciative, others will also appreciate us. Thankfulness is contagious. It creates an atmosphere that is more positive and makes you a more likable and pleasant person to be around. So if you’re feeling low, like things never seem to go your way, get up and say thank-you, search for things to be thankful for. Even when something bad happens you can find something to be grateful for, whether it is a lesson that you learned from the experience, or someone you met because of it.

Learn to thank God, thank others, thank yourself, be thankful and learn to develop a thankful heart. As usual a story from my beautiful Nana Scully might provide further thought.

‘Life is both Roses and Thorns!’

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against heavy wind gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What’s worse, Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer.

“She has no idea what I’m feeling,” thought Sandra with a shudder. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an air bag that saved her life but took that of her child? “Good afternoon, may I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her. “I….I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.

“Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this Thanksgiving?” “Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” Then the door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara…let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses; Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers. “Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest. “Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh….she just left with no flowers!” “Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“Oh, come off it, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra. “Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.” “So what did you do?” asked Sandra. “I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly.

“I’ve always thanked God for good things in life and never to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.” Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement, twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems,” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator. “Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”

“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special.” “I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Sandra said to the clerk. “It’s all too…fresh.” “Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out. “I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.” “Thank you. What do I owe you?” Sarah asked. “Nothing; nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra.

“I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.” It read: “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the life I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.” Praise Him for your roses, thank him for your thorns.

Thought for the week

As your thought for the week, pray and try to become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful and thankful for. You will find that if you do, you will begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted. Thankfulness and gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all the time thankful attitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations.

Today, start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful; in this way, you’ll be on your way toward becoming a person that knows real gratitude. “The Art of Thanksgiving” by Albert Schweitzers is a good philosophy to help us with our own living and it goes as follows.

“It is thanking God for the gift of life by living it triumphantly. It is thanking God for your talents and abilities by accepting them as obligations to be invested for the common good. It is thanking God for all that men and women have done for you by doing things for others. It is thanking God for opportunities by accepting them as a challenge to achievement.

“It is thanking God for happiness by striving to make others happy. It is thanking God for beauty by helping to make the world more beautiful. It is thanking God for inspiration by trying to be an inspiration to others. It is thanking God for health and strength by the care and reverence you show your body.

“It is thanking God for the creative ideas that enrich life by adding your own creative contributions to human progress. It is thanking God for each new day by living it to the fullest. It is thanking God by giving hands, arms, legs, and voice to your thankful spirit. It is adding to your prayers of thanksgiving, acts of thanksgiving. Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to? Be thankful when you don’t know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

“Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow. Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement. Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character. Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons. Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.

“It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they too can become your blessings.”

Be as thankful as you can be always and remember when Life gets sour, sweeten it with Thankfulness!!

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