Sometimes, hard things pop up in life. We can have our heads down, trying to make it through life, when out of nowhere we are blindsided by a trial or challenge that troubles us deeply. Our nerves are set on edge. We lose our appetites. Our stomachs feel like they are swimming, yet wrapped with iron chains.
Or maybe we are in the midst of a trial that is ongoing. Some challenges don’t come with an expiration date. It’s hard to face them day in and day out.
When we’re in a situation like the ones I’ve mentioned above, it’s easy to live in a fog. We drive down the road lost in our own thoughts. The kindnesses of others are merely blips on our radar. The world of nature is something we go blind and deaf to.
Yet, what happens if the scales fall off of our eyes? These last weeks, in the midst of my driving, my eyes have taken in a summer phenomenon of the area where I live: orange lilies that spring up of their own will and line the sides of the road. For certain stretches of my drive, I’m truly hedged in by orange. When I open my eyes to truly see, the beauty has a charming and warming effect upon me.
And what of the kindnesses of others? A new friend of mine gave me some lovely flowers for my birthday, at a time when my mind was flustered over some things that had me very anxious. Her kindness was so unexpected, so thoughtful. My eyes opened wider and wider to see all the thought she had put into the gift that she gave.
Seeing small things – beautiful things, sweet things, kind things – is precious. Sometimes it’s very hard to do, but it can have a great effect upon us. Why is that? I propose that it is because seeing small things helps us to be thankful, and can eventually lead to a new perspective.
When I see small things, it helps me remember to ask myself if I have a right to an easy life. Why should my life be carefree when other people have extremely difficult lives? Why was I born into a country where I would have enough food, running water, and even Internet access, when other people have none of these things? Why do I get to live in safety while Syrian refugees flee for their lives? Why do I have any blessings, large or small?
Seeing small things helps me to begin to be more than just thankful. It helps me to be humble.
Some people say that happiness is a choice. I believe there’s a fair bit of truth in that proposal, and I believe that thankfulness and humility are critical ingredients in happiness.
All of what I have said doesn’t mean that what we suffer is trivial. It’s real, and hard, and we don’t have to be stoic about it. No matter what, we will have to wrestle and struggle. However, I also believe that ideally we don’t want to have to do that wrestling while living in a permanent state of depression, if that can be avoided.
Truth be told, I have to work a lot at being thankful. I think I’m growing though. I love these ancient words about why we should be thankful, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above…” All my blessings come down from heaven – even from God himself – so I want to thank him. I want to thank him for every blessing, and today, on my birthday, I especially want to thank him for the man who helped prevent my suicide attempt about seven years ago. I’m thankful to be alive today.